by K Griffin © 2000
heavy door creaked loudly, protesting against the unaccustomed movement as it
opened. As the door slowly swung
open, he lowered his head and stared at the stone floor. He couldn’t quite bring himself to the point of admitting
that whilst he was afraid they had finally come for him, he was almost just as
afraid that they hadn’t. He heard
a weak murmur of protest from his cellmate and then the door slammed shut.
He was alone.
was the first time since his capture that he had been totally alone.
He sat on the hard stone flags that formed the floor of this cell and
tried to think, but the cold seemed to have numbed more than his body.
His brain refused to work. Small
sounds magnified in the darkness, echoing eerily until they were impossible to
identify. Rasping, scraping noises
from the recesses of the cell conjured up images of nightmare creature with
razor sharp claws, but were probably only the rats that still shared his prison.
been in this predicament now for almost three weeks. Time was easy to count.
He counted it in people. Each
day, another person was removed from the cell.
Each day, the cell got roomier and the food pans held a little less.
It had eventually become apparent that those who left this cell, never
returned to it. He’d fought this unpalatable fact for days, hoping against
hope that the next time the door opened, his sister would be returned to him.
She’d been the first to leave. She’d
left with dignity; even managing to catch his eye one last time and smile
bravely. That last glance and the
image of her clear grey eyes were still burned into his soul.
That was how he wished to remember her.
in the cell, he closed his eyes and gave an almost audible sigh as a muffled
scream rang in his head. “Keelie,”
he whispered softly, “What is it? What
have they done?” He paused,
hoping for an answer, but the screams continued.
The sounds had started soon after she’d been taken away.
At first it had only been little shudders of horror; then whimpers of
pain; then finally the full-blown screaming.
He was sure she’d lost her mind under whatever torture these foul
captors had inflicted upon her. He
was also sure she was dead because a few days ago the screams had become little
more than a muted echo. He now
believed that it was his memory of the screams that haunted him.
always been a loner and more than a little reserved, but the loss of his sister
had affected him deeply. He was now
morose and sullen and found it impossible to engage in any light conversation.
It was as though in losing her, he had lost himself.
He’d promised to protect her from all harm and had failed. He’d refused to even introduce himself to his cellmates,
feeling that he was no longer worthy of the family name. The one time he had come alive had been when the topic of
conversation had drifted towards dreams of freedom. A painful yearning for that freedom had made him speak
eloquently about the beauty of the open skies and from that day the people had
dubbed him “Skye”. He’d
shrugged and accepted the new name. It
was as good as any and he now had need of a new one.
listened to the various rumours about what purpose or use their captors had for
them all. The guesses became more
fantastic as the days passed. He’d
not told them about the screams. He’d
seen no point in adding fuel to the darker surmises. Now though, as he sat alone in the dark and cold, he wished
he’d explored the various theories. From
that first day when they’d been herded into the fortress courtyard and lined
up for inspection and sorting, he’d only seen the face of one of his captors.
“Lysis” was the name she had whispered softly in his ear as she
trailed a finger over the muscles of his shoulders and arms.
She’d smiled and looked at him then left.
That one gentle touch lingered in his memory.
Her demeanour had been very different to the brutal treatment meted out
by the minions of darkness that garrisoned the fortress.
Secure behind their black helms, they made no pretence at humanity in
their treatment of the prisoners, or “cattle” as they dubbed them.
A bitter hatred had welled up within him when he had realised that to the
troops, the captives were sub-human.
intended to sleep to regain some strength and then formulate some plan for the
morrow. The option of fighting and
dying seemed pointless, but he could see no alternative.
He’d considered trying to barter his way to freedom, but could think of
nothing that his captives might value. He
did not know them. He was not of
this land and had been simply passing through in an attempt to take his sister
to the safety of their mother’s people. He’d
not known that what looked like snowflakes falling from the wintry sky, was
really a mystical net that would induce sleep in those it touched. He’d been captured without a struggle and had indeed been
herded like a head of cattle to this compound.
told him “Fight and die like a man”. Fear
told him “Fight and die swiftly rather than suffer the same fate as Keelie”.
Hatred and anger however, sent another message, “Endure, and seek
revenge”. He was still undecided
when the door creaked and scraped its way open across the stone floor.
He hesitated and lost any chance of taking the initiative.
He looked up in time to see the snowy net again floating in the air.
Unable to avoid it in the confines of the cell, he felt its cold embrace
and knew that to endure was now his only option.
Even as his senses dulled and sleep overtook him, he seemed to see the
dark beauty named Lysis, smiling at him. He
slumped to the floor in a dreamless stupor.
he eventually regained consciousness, he presumed he was in a new part of the
fortress, a high part of the fortress. He
faced a wide-open window. After
weeks in the dungeons, he could now see the sky.
It was overcast and grey and icy blasts of wind swept in through the open
window, but he still stared at it with a deep hungry longing.
He seemed to be hanging suspended in the middle of the room, swaying a
little in the breeze like a wind chime. They’d
labelled the captives, cattle, and now he believed them.
Something bound his whole body, holding him immobile.
He felt like a carcass in a slaughterhouse, awaiting the next stage of
butchering. He struggled to swing
himself around to view another portion of the room, but the movement caused a
piercing pain to stab through his shoulder blades.
He gasped as the agony continued even after he stopped moving.
A sweat broke out on his forehead and a drop trickled its way down his
face. At least he was still alive,
but totally immobilised and the pain was so intense that he wondered if he truly
did hang from a hook driven into his back.
A soft voice spoke from behind him, “Good. You are alive.”
knew the voice, and he recognised her touch when a finger traced the path of the
drop of sweat and gently wiped his face clean. She moved into his view and for the first time, he looked
past the smile. He watched as the
elegant hand was raised and a little pink tongue darted out from between red
lips to lick the salty sweat from her finger.
She seemed to taste and consider it.
Her movements were languid and casual and almost hypnotic.
He saw her lips form the words before his ears even registered that she
had spoken. “Good, its pain, not
fear that makes you react. You have
no need to fear me”, she said softly and her dark eyes were now fixed on his
face as she continued, “I am
Lysis and I am here to ease the pain as your wish is granted. You wished to feel
the freedom of the sky? You shall
soar on the winds and you shall own the skies.
The blood of the golden dragon shall grant you this power”.
walked around him and by some mechanism lowered him to the ground.
He felt her unwrap the shroud slightly and her fingers touched his bare
back. This time he couldn’t
stifle the scream as the pain knifed through him.
She laughed and replaced the wrapping and again winched him high into the
air. She snapped her fingers and a
scuttling noise responded. It was
then that he saw the other occupant of this room.
It was a giant spider. “Keep
the bandages fresh”, commanded Lysis. The spider seemed to understand because
once Lysis had left the room it began a slow patrol around and around his
suspended body. He finally realised
that what bound him so still and tight were millions of strands of sticky spider
days that followed became a monotonous routine of pain and boredom.
Occasionally Lysis would visit him and her gentle touch would bring more
pain. She confused him.
One moment she would be slicing his back open to release built up poisons
and blood and the next she would be caressing his face, crooning soft lullabies
and whispering stories of ancient powers and dreams.
All the while he could feel the golden blood eating into his body. He could feel its fire as it consumed his own red human blood
and he could feel time slowing as his metabolism slowed and changed.
He could also feel pain as chitinous scales began to grow into his back
and the little buds of newly forming leathery wings sprouted from his shoulder
blades. She was turning him into a
monster but she was the one person in this place that he did not hate.
spider though, did hate Lysis. It
was totally bound to her will by some unknown force, but Skye could sense its
hate and see the fine hairs that covered its bulbous body bristle, whenever
Lysis entered the room. Little
droplets of poison glistened on its fangs whenever it looked at her.
Lysis would simply laugh and pet its huge body before turning to her
was the day when Lysis made her announcement that Skye saw the first overt
disobedience from the spider. He
also saw another side to Lysis. “Tomorrow,
we start on my blood,” announced Lysis. The
spider had seemed to shudder and had lunged menacingly at Lysis, who had neatly
sidestepped the charge. She had
also reached into a pouch attached to her girdle and flung a dark powder at the
spider. Just as venom had dripped
from the spider’s fangs, now it dripped from Lysis’ voice as she almost spat
out the words, “You forget that you are mine and tomorrow so shall he be.
He has had to wait longer than most to join us, since we could not dilute
the dragon blood, but make no mistake – tomorrow we become one.”
Lysis reached for her dagger, sliced open her own arm and dropped the
dagger to grip the cut arm and force the blood to flow freely and quickly.
Blood dripped onto the stone floor and the dust covered spider retreated
quickly. As the blood touched the
remnants of black powder, it sizzled and smoked, filling the room with a foul
pungent smell. Lysis dipped her
finger in her own blood and traced a pattern in the air using the bloody finger.
She laughed gleefully, then turned and left the room.
Skye watched the spider writhe in agony and it was only as the smoke
cleared that he realised that a tattoo was now etched into the spider’s body.
It was an exact replica of the pattern that Lysis had traced in the air.
continued to watch the spider warily after Lysis had left the room.
He was shocked by the power that he’d just seen wielded.
What shocked him most was the glimpse into the reality that was Lysis.
“He will be mine. We will
be one,” she had said. He
realised that she truly had mesmerised him while she worked her dark magic, but
now he was awake again. He studied
the spider. It was still shivering
with rage and hate and pain. Lysis
might have thwarted its attack, but she had obviously not cowed it completely.
Skye watched, as the Spider seemed to focus its attention upon his
helpless body. In a slow lumbering
walk, it turned and headed towards him. Its
mandibles were clicking threateningly and its fangs were primed with poison.
Perhaps it needed a victim for its rage. Whatever its motivation, Skye was convinced that it was no
longer under Lysis’ control.
moved out of his field of vision. He
braced himself. The screaming in
his head rose to a fever pitch. He
thought “Keelie, I’ll join you soon”.
He felt rather than saw the slashing sweep of its mandibles as it swept
away his cocoon of webbing. He
crashed to the ground and was too stunned by the fall to move quickly. By the time he had freed his arms the spider was upon him.
Its weight crushed him to the ground and immobilised him just as surely
as the web had done previously. He
could feel it stripping away the last of the webbing.
He was sure that any moment its fangs would sink into his flesh.
His hand touched something hard and cold and he realised he had a weapon.
With a desperate surge of strength, he grasped Lysis’ dagger from where
it had fallen and slashed the soft round underbelly of this monster.
It teetered above him, but the next slash severed two of its legs.
It tumbled sideways as it lost all balance.
Skye followed it this time and stabbed repeatedly at it, until they were
both covered in sticky gore and ooze. Finally
it seemed to stop moving.
Freed from the warm cocoon of the web, the icy wind now knifed through him. He managed to stand shakily and stared at the grey cold sky. The window seemed to beckon. He felt a strange twinge as those new leathery wings unfurled. This time the pain had meaning and it was an exquisite agony as he slowly stretched the newly formed wings and felt them fill with blood. He looked back at the room for one last time. The spider seemed to be still quivering. Skye walked back, forestalling the flight test a moment longer. He gingerly poked at the spider with his toe, rolling it over to examine it more carefully. Even as it rolled, the slashed abdomen split fully in half and Skye recoiled at the horror that was exposed. Inside, fully encased and imprisoned by the huge lumbering spider shell was the stunted remains of a human body. Two familiar clear grey eyes looked at him unblinking as a cracked and breaking voice rasped out one faint word “thankyou”. Then the eyes closed and the quivering ceased. Her screaming had finally stopped but even as Skye stumbled to the window and launched onto the winds, he knew that now his own never would.
© 2005 Elusive Dreams Mud. All rights reserved.