Chapter 1: Cursed

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by Elise Pannon

Reads: 716
Comments: 3

 

 

 

Chains

By Jeannie Delahunt

Chapter I

Cursed

The early morning fog embraced the aromatic earth of Spicewood Forest, a woodlands renown for provocative fragrances of cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, and countless other stimulating scents. Interchanging, ever-shifting trails, paths, and roads could catch daydreaming travelers off guard.  The key to arriving to the post desired...concentration.  Barren ground converted into lush meadows, dense forests, deep canyons, all depending upon the destinations of the travelers and their abilities to focus...yes, focus upon their desired journey's end

The trail this woman pursued didn't shift much, today, however.  Her thoughts aimlessly flitted from one subject to another too rapidly for the forest to interpret into any defining route.  Dawdling in this forest and relishing the scents had proved too tempting so far. The forest responded likewise.  No exerted effort of concentration meant the trail disappeared into somewhere, anywhere, but no where in particular until the boundary.  At the boundary travelers then relied upon their own skills of navigation. 

Get serious! No procrastinating!  I can hear Frior Andrew scolding me!

She pictured the leather-bound package hidden within her bedroll.  As long as her contemplations didn't wander for any length of time, the trail remained constant, shifting when needed, leading her to the person expecting the parcel, if the recipient lived within the forest.  If the person lived outside of the boundary, then the end presented as close as possible to the desired outcome.  If she lost concentration, the travel-way lead to wherever her thoughts dwelt most heavily upon.

Dressed in modest attire, she road bareback upon her horse, William.  She closed her eyes for a moment and breathing in, she relished the scents in the air.  How intoxicating are the fragrances!  She opened her eyes just in time to dodge a low-hanging branch.

If I were ever to marry and we were to build a home, I would love it to be here! 

I'll never marry!

Pale rays of sunshine illuminated the trail;  yet, a foot or more of night fog still clung to the forest floor beyond. William hesitated.  He pawed the earth.  To the left of them, towered a large, dark... something.  

I wish this fog would lift so I could see!

In the tranquility of the early dawn...that sounds like...chains?  Slowly, she grasped her sword.  Have to investigate!

Deformed perhaps?  So hard to see!  Dead tree? 

With a pat on William’s neck and a whispered, “Shshshshush,” she steadied him. He snorted.

The figure moved slightly.  

Chains?  Beast? Trap?

She urged William forward.  He refused.  She dismounted.

The unrecognizable image spoke in a dark tone.  “I can smell you, you know.  Who are you?”  

She froze stiffer than a stone statue in a graveyard. 

Fleeing might be the better option right now.

She cleared her throat.  “Better questions…what…who…are you?”  Her hands trembled slightly.

What…am I? Who…am I?  No one has dared asked before. Come closer.  I will tell you.“

She frowned. Her organs felt as though they twisted at the tone of the creature's voice.  Is it...despair...?!  

She gazed at the colossal shape.  “Know this, whatever, whoever you are.  I will…kill you if… you try to hurt me!”

“After 700 years, death would be welcome.  I will not hurt you.  I can’t hurt you.  I am chained and unable to move.”

She pondered upon the response.  “If your tongue lies…I will kill you. Lies mask evil. I am not afraid.  I have known death…and evil!”

“No lies, Maiden!  No lies!  Evil?  Who can say?”

With each step, she sank a little into the damp forest floor.

Swamp? Marsh? 

She held her sword in a ready position.  Just one threatening move, and your heart I will skewer!

Like a jungle cat stalking prey, she crept.  The fog...akin to wisps of smoke...dissipated.  Shreds of sunlight poked holes in the mist now.  She squinted and paused.  The shape shifted slightly again.  She heard the chains.

“Are you…trapped?”

“What if I am?  Would you free me?”

“Are you in pain?”

“Pain?  What do you know of pain?”

William snorted.  He followed, pausing between steps.

I think Frior Andrew would not be happy with me right now.  She lowered her sword.  Maybe I should find Frior Andrew first.

“You are afraid.”

“I fear nothing!”

“Of course not. We all fear...something!” 

“What do you fear?”  She blurted before her brain was able to snatch back the words.

“Rotting here or…not rotting here…bound in these chains for all eternity!”

The sun’s rays brightened, exposing the back of the creature.

Dragon?  How is this possible? 

Then she saw them, thick, black, heavy, and oddly formed.  Chains?  You're wrapped in chains?

Massive stakes had been driven in the surrounding layers of rocks, securely fastening the entwining metal.  No slack.  Round and round the chains wrapped about the beast.  He groaned.

She scowled.  “What mischief is this?”  Seeing the beast was firmly secured, she lowered her sword a little.

“Maiden, have mercy upon this poor beast and unlock these chains.  For 700 years I have been bowed in this position.”

She let the image before her sink into her brain.

“How could you live that long?  Do you eat?”

“No.”

“When did you drink last?”

“700 years ago.”

“Impossible!  You are deceitful, Dragon!”

“Nor am I permitted to sleep.  With the rising and the setting of the sun, come snow, frost, heat, and wind, I cannot rest, nor forget.  I speak the truth…appearances aren’t all they seem to be!”

“You have eyes like a serpent…Dragon.”

“Do I?  I am a serpent - a dragon after all.“

“What sorcery is this?”  She demanded.

“Punishment for a stubborn, hateful, proud, selfish, and rebellious heart, Maiden.”

She pursed her lips.  “Truly?  What evil did you do – burn down some poor farmer’s fields?  Fry his sheep?”

“I suppose I deserve your sarcasm. Worse, Maiden. Far worse!”

“Tell me, then, Dragon.”

“I...betrayed my...brother.  Betrayed him twice, no, three times.  But the third, I am so ashamed, so ashamed, I can't say it.”

“You had a dragon-brother”

“I wasn’t always a dragon.”

The woman glared at the beast.

“You’re under enchantment then?”  She tiptoed to the front of him.

He shuddered.  “Have you ever heard of a talking dragon?  I can be sarcastic, too!”

“Either you are or you are not…bewitched.”

“Will you unchain me if I tell you?”

“That’s to be seen.  I don’t know.  Let me hear your story.”

Dragon sighed.  “I…was a man…once.  I owed money, lots of money, too much money.  Playing the dice…my weakness.

I stole two strong horses from my brother. He was going to sell them to pay the taxes he owed on his farm.  He needed help.  His crops - no crops.  No rain.  These horses were prized animals, too.  I failed him...my brother!

I stole the horses in the night, no fear, they didn't resist.  As I drove them across the meadow beyond, a scorching light blinded me.  I felt my flesh burning.  I saw a set of flaming wings and a face that glowed like burning coals.  The next thing I knew I found myself chained in this position in the body of the beast you see.” His chest heaved.

“Are you in pain?”

“Pain?  Pain!  What do you think?  For 700 years I can't move.  For 700 years I hunger and thirst.”

She studied him.  “You are forced- fastened in a bowed, almost supplicating position. For 700 years this has been so?”

“Yes.”

“Dragon, how does anyone live more than a few days without water?  Food?”

“It is the curse.  I am to suffer what I have caused others to suffer.  I am to hunger and thirst.  As I deprived them, so I am now deprived.”

“What happened to the stolen horses?“

“I don’t know.”

“Were you riding a horse?”

“Yes.”

“What happened to your horse?”

“I don’t know.”

She sighed, “And your brother?”

He didn’t answer.

“Your brother?”  She repeated.

“I don’t know!”

She glanced up at the dragon’s face, shielding her eyes from the brightening sunlight.  Her short, reddish hair glowed red highlights. 

You must be seven, no, ten feet taller than I am!

Dragon growled.  “I can’t speak well with these chains wrapped around my snout!  Forgive me, please.”

“Who was the figure with the wings?”

“I don’t know.  I never saw such a sight before.”

“How is it you can speak?”

“I don’t know that, either.  I couldn’t until just after my appeal.  Before, I could only move my lips, no sound. Only my heart spoke.  Words came afterwards, after…I don’t know.  I don’t understand.  Please unchain me?”

“Whom did you appeal to?”

“Whoever would hear me.  I don’t know.  The Healer, perhaps?”

“Healer?"  The Friors speak of him. 

“Maiden…”

“Stop calling me that!”

Dragon sighed.  “Do you have a name?” 

“Yes.”

“Then I shall call you…”

“You shall call me nothing, for I don’t wish to share my name with you!”

Dragon exhaled the most intensive moan she had ever heard.  The pathetic sound of it softened her heart, a little.

“Woman, I wish you no disrespect, but, I don’t know how to identify you.”

“How is this punishment, curse defeated?”

“I am forbidden to say.”

“Why?”

“I am forbidden to say.”

“Can you ever be released?”

“Yes, but I am forbidden to say.”

“Why?”

“If I say or give any clues, that is, the outcome must come from the free will of another.”

“Riddles?  You mock me with riddles?  I’m leaving. I don’t have time for this!  Someone waits for my delivery!”  She turned and marched towards William.  His ears lay flat.

“I am not mocking you, I speak truthfully. Truthfully, I do speak!”

She snapped back, “How do you know how to end this curse, if you don’t know anything else?”

“I don’t know how to end it, exactly. I don’t know how it works just a sense, that’s all. Can’t really explain.”

The woman shook her head.  She grabbed William’s mane and jumped upon his back. She clicked her tongue and William leaped into a gallop.  As the sound of William’s beating hooves dimmed, Dragon whimpered.

“How can I bear this punishment? I can’t bear this punishment!  I’m sorry, truly sorry!  Please forgive me!  Whoever, whatever you are...forgive…me!”

The full moon lit up the woodland and the meadow beyond. Dragon wept. The gurglings of all stuffed emotions he had refused to recognise and feel over the centuries, the results of past offenses, remorse, and contrition collided.  The grievous mix clawed at his heart.  As lava erupts from the bowels of a volcano, a sea of untapped tears burst from the depths of his soul and spirit.  As his knees bent in forced submission, the rebellion in his heart began submitting to character accuracies that, for aeons of time, he had denied.

Throughout the dark night, until the sun gleamed rosy-red and orange the next morning, Dragon wailed a deep pool of tears around himself.

 

 

 

Cover photo: Courtesy of Sarah Richter Art, Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: June 14, 2019

© Copyright 2020 Elise Pannon. All rights reserved.

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What does a parent do, when every attempt to save the life of one's child, when that child, adult child, is an active heroin addict? The answer came from the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

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Comments

Elise Pannon

Please forgive the formatting. I have tried numerous times to fix it. Now waiting to hear back from the powers-that-be from this site, as to how to go forward.

Tue, June 18th, 2019 12:52pm

Elise Pannon

I have published Chapter 4 twice. It isn't showing. Given that, fearful of the formatting, what it will look like.

Tue, August 27th, 2019 10:22pm

J P Lundstrom

I'm interested to know why you use the ellipsis so often. The reader would be more comfortable following your story if the dot-dot-dot did not occur so often.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PotxJPBG-wU We all kow that the ellipsis indicates a pause, as when the speaker loses his train of thought, OR when words have been omitted from a quotation. https://thewritepractice.com/how-to-use-an-ellipsis-correctly/
So you can see where the reader may become uncomfortable when it feels like the author has left something out or lost his/her train of thought.
For your readers' sake, be as specific as possible. Write in complete sentences. Vary your word choice. And choose other punctuation to indicate pauses. https://writersrelief.com/2012/07/20/halt-punctuate-adramatic-pause/
Don't let your readers think you were too inattentive to do a thorough job.

Sun, August 30th, 2020 2:47am

Author
Reply

Thank you for asking. As I reread the chapter, people don't always talk in complete sentences. They pause, especially if they are not sure what to say next. I tried commas, but in my head, and when I read the dialogue aloud, the ellipsis presents the impact I wish to display at least in dialogue.

However, you have given me something to think about and I will review this.

I greatly appreciate the review, as it gives a good deal of insight. I've gone over these chapters so many times, I think I fail at this point to pick up on items you have caught. I read your comment and think to myself, "Why didn't I see it?"

Thank you again!!! :) :)

Sun, August 30th, 2020 7:25am

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