Tim stood at the entrance to the cave which squatted at the base of Guardian Mountain, one tan and dirt encrusted hand grasping the rough, grey rock at the cave mouth. He leaned his head inward, straining his eyes to peer into the dark depths.
He knew it was here, though he didn't know what 'it' was.
Tim was tired. It had been three anxious suns of walking due north through the frightening Darkling Forest. Yet anything was better than the torment of living with the scorn of his brothers and father, and his own growing hatred. The nights of his journey had been terrifying, wakeful, hearing his name called over and over. All of it had brought him unerringly to this place.
While his body might be tired, his heart was thumping hard with excitement. He just knew this was what he was seeking; this was what had been calling him.
Wind rushed past his back, carrying browned leaves fallen too early for the season, and brushing them on by. He didn’t notice. He was too intent on studying the tiny flashes of light which blinked at him from countless crystal points embedded into the walls and ceiling of the cave.
He heard a loud, snorting breath bellowing forth from some huge beast within and startled backward, his head rearing up. He saw it then, an outline of darkness, shadowing the crystal points of light, moving slowly toward him from the back of the cave. He heard the crunching sound of movement on rock, heavy and slow.
Terror vyed for control of his body. His mind knew he should run yet his heart kept him rooted to the spot.
A deep green, scaled forearm stepped into the light. His eyes followed it downward as long, ivory talons curved into view, then another forearm moved up beside it, cruel talons clicking on rock. A tingling thrilled through Tim’s arms and legs, his body begging him to flee. Still he did not.
His mouth dropped open unheeded, full lips dry, as Tim’s dark lashed eyes followed the gleaming, scaled forearms back up to powerful shoulders, rippling with muscle. Shoulders which shone in the light as the enormous beast emerged from the dark shadows of the cave. Tim's riveted gaze picked out the sparkling details of each scale, looking as though they were made of purest, dark green emerald. He had never seen anything so beautiful.
His eyes traced further upward to the sinuous neck, reflecting the sunlight in an emerald green so dark as to look almost black, shading back and forth with a startling sapphire blue as the neck wove to and fro in the light. The effect was mesmerizing.
Tilting his head back to look further up, Tim saw powerful jaws and ridged, reptilian head duck under the rock overhang as the beast emerged slowly from the dark of the cave, it’s claws grating and crunching over the rock floor.
Run! Run! Run! Tim’s mind screamed at him even as he ignored the fear that coursed through his body.
A Guardian. It called me here. It wants me! Awe filled his chest on a gasping intake of breath. He had never been so sure of anything in his life. Here was power, strength, and dominance, everything he wanted and more.
Tim fell to his knees bumping his forehead to the ground, almost touching the great, ivory claws. “I will serve you with my life, Great One, only give me your power and strength,” his words fell to the earth followed by tears of fear, release and joy.
The huge jaws lowered deliberately to hover in the air just above Tim’s head. The breath blew out through enormous nostrils and Tim felt his hair parted and blown about. He didn’t dare to move. Perhaps the Guardian will take my life. He trembled involuntarily at the thought. It would be my honor to serve so, though he hoped the Guardian would have better use for him than that. He kept his head bowed to the ground, clenching his elbows tight to his sides trying to still the trembling that shook him.
It would seem that it did have a better use for him, because he felt the warm wind of breath quiet and the great head move away.
Tim lifted his own head from the ground and risked a glance upward. Large, round pupiled eyes the color of molten gold stared down at him from the bejeweled head, green ridges, dark as obsidian, standing high.
The Guardian slowly turned, long, graceful neck curving around, claws scratching over stone, and moved back into it’s cave. Tim knelt, watching spellbound. The beautiful creature turned it’s head back once again to look at Tim, as if in invitation.
Tim, tear streaked face full of boyish wonder and pure delight, scrambled to his feet and followed.
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here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Fal, known to those unlucky few as, the Fallen, rested easily on the rocky ledge in his cave hidden deep within the foothills of Guardian Mountain. His crystalline cave was a small version of Gran Bryl’s own. He had chosen it for this reason, to focus him upon his goal.
His long neck arched gracefully, shining emerald and sapphire as he moved in the fingers of sun stretching into the cave, and relaxed his powerful jaws on his chest.
He had just eaten, a fine, grass-fattened cud-chewer, he hunted that morning.
The foolish beast ran, he thought, as if it had a chance. It did not willingly give itself as is my due. He had enjoyed the chase though, prolonging it a bit. After all that was really the point wasn’t it?
It wasn’t as if he needed to consume meat. Though he was still young, the crystal frequency, even at the base of Guardian Mountain, was enough to sustain him. Still, he did enjoy a good chase, and the kill.
He wrapped his elegant, gleamingly scaled tail around massive foreclaws, licked clean of any sign of his morning’s entertainment. Then he settled himself upright on haunches, such a deep green they were almost black.
Closing golden, round pupiled eyes he sank deep into the blackness behind his eyelids, searching. He wouldn’t be here long. The voices were too strong here.
Opening his mental eyes, he noted that he no longer saw the accursed light of the web. That One-blasted Unity, he thought. He had left that behind when he chose to pursue his own plans. His thoughts scattered back to well-worn pathways. I will never bind myself to the web of the One like those weakling Guardians. I will never undergo the Ritual of the One, nor will my Contracted. I will create my own Ritual of Power when I am Elder!
And the voices began.
By what right does Gran Bryl continue to be Eldress? She wastes her power. You have the blood! You are of the Chosen! But we forget, you are only a pathetic worm, a cowardly lizard. There is no power in you, only weakness. We waste our time.
Anger surged through him. Great claws ripped at the rocky ground beneath him. The grating of claw on stone jolted him to full wakefulness.
I will be Elder, he promised, and this world will know my power!
The Fallen vented his anger with a series of loud, grating roars, head thrown back, teeth bared, black-edged wings lifting, mantling. The flapping lifted him backwards, out of the sunlight, back into the thick darkness in the depth of his cave.
The power of the display was most satisfying.
He settled himself once more, shaking out his wings and folding them to his sides, and willed himself back down into the inky depths to find the one he sought.
He allowed himself to sink deeper and deeper into the void. Pathetic worm. Cowardly lizard. He ignored the voices.
A slash of brilliant light to his left momentarily blinded him. He knew this was Guardian Mountain, and that accursed Gran Eldress, and turned his attention quickly away from it.
Other lights sparkled in the darkness. He bypassed them, floating onward until he was distracted by one particular, small light. A light he had been keeping track of for several changes now. The light was turning a satisfactory shade of grey, muddy at the edges, but still a clear aqua toward the center. This small one will be of use to me, he thought with satisfaction.
We’ll meet soon boy, he promised.
Again, the voices. No power, only weakness, weakness… He shrugged them off, and cast his mind’s eye out looking further.
Finally, drifting further into the darkness, he found that which he sought, a cobalt-blue blaze of light. Ah, the Guardian, Ell. She awakens to her Self, but she is a mere hatchling. My Wufn, will have her by the time she grows to her second skin.
He felt that familiar sense of possessiveness and delicious control that came to him whenever he thought of his Contracted now. Not like it used to be, he thought, back when I was a weak hatchling, so dependent upon his unthinking cruelty.
The anger that thought engendered brought him fully alert. He never lasted long in the void, too many distracting thoughts. Too many feelings. And then there were the voices. The voices that whispered to him constantly, but especially here in this dark place.
Enough! He thought and returned to more satisfying musings. Wufn taught me well, but now he is the learner. Now he knows what fear is. He felt the spines raising along the ridges at the crest of his head, his wings lifting and spreading as the desire for power filled him.
I will have Ell. I will have the control! There will be no coming together into some One blasted Unity, he thought with satisfaction. All will know the strength of my will, my power!
The Fallen roared with the intensity of emotion and gave his wings a flapping surge of strength, hind claws squeezing, crushing the rubble beneath him.
Then, pleased with himself, he relaxed and mind-thought, Wufn, I have need of you.