|The Five Maidens of Bryn
Author: Poiniard PM
COMPLETE Five women, captives of a sorcerous dragon, band together to escape from a demon haunted fortress.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure - Chapters: 4 - Words: 11,608 - Reviews: 8 - Updated: 03-18-07 - Published: 02-04-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3376670
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Men came for Cerasa in the night, soldiers barging into her father's inn, rousting them all from sleep and dragging her off. Her father had protested, but the Dark Druids were there, and the indignant wrath of a village innkeeper meant nothing to them.
They took Cerasa to the Calling Place and tied her to the stake, a sacrifice. The soldiers left, once they had tied her up, but the druids remained, watching.
She had nothing but her night shift to ward off the cold. The winds howled and she struggled against the ropes that held her. She knew what was coming- she was being given to the dragon. "It's all a mistake," she screamed. "We gave up a maiden two weeks ago, there's not to be another one 'till next season!"
But the dark hooded ones ignored the girl. It was their task to appease the dragon, for the good of all the village.
"But it's not fair! There's supposed to be another lottery!"
The druids said nothing. Something had gone wrong with the last sacrifice, and they'd hastily arranged another. Cerasa's sentence was against the Law- the pact between the folk of Bryn and the worm Rhaega. But the dragon WAS the law, and the druids didn't want to face the alternative. So they'd met in secret, chosen Cerasa because of something her father had done, and tied her to the stake.
She sensed the dragon then. It was dark on the hilltop, except for the torches of the druids, and the night was filled with snow. She couldn't see the dragon, but she could sense it. Cerasa screamed.The great worm swooped silently out of the night, wings spread, white scales the color of snow. She screamed again as it scooped her up, stake and all, and flew off with her, still tied to the shattered wood. Her stomach lurched, and she knew it was carrying her. She could see nothing but the great talon that held her. In her terror, she passed out.
She lay on a floor of hard ice, as clear as a still pool. There was no sign of the stake, or the ropes which had bound her to it. She was in a large, crystalline cavern, with a floor entirely of ice. Great icicles hung from the ceiling like stalagmites. Her shift was in tatters, shredded by the winds. Her slippers were gone. She was bitterly cold.
The innkeeper's daughter tried to move, but found that she was chained. There was an iron collar around her neck, and from it hung a heavy chain that went straight down into the solid, smooth ice. She tugged, but the ice held the chain as firmly as stone. She saw her own face reflected in the ice- short black hair, olive skin, dark almond-shaped eyes.
"I see you're awake."
Cerasa nearly jumped. She turned to look. There, but a few paces away, sat another girl. "You were the one they sacrificed two weeks ago," Cerasa said.
"Has it been that long?" The other girl was little older than Cerasa. She had fair skin and short brown hair. She was thin, but she had only the look of hunger, not starvation, about her. There was a vacancy, a numbness, in her blue eyes.
The other girl was also chained to the ice, but instead of a collar about her neck she had manacles on her wrists, each fixed to a chain embedded in the ice. She had nothing on but a ripped tunic. She had bruises and had been marked by whips. "My name's Henna," she said.
"From the inn? I'm sorry."
"How come I'm still alive? And you?"
Henna shrugged. "I've not seen or felt the dragon since it brought me here. The thing has goblin servants- they're the ones who chained me here. And you." She glanced towards an opening in the ice walls, where a narrow stair ascended into rock. "So, I've been just waiting here, and praying to the Goddess." That was a thing few would admit, for it was forbidden.
"You look pretty bad," Cerasa said, testing her bonds again. "But you've not starved yet. Does this goddess of yours bring food?"
"The goblins bring food, after a fashion. Water too, every now and then. They have sport with me, but not for long, then they leave me the food and they hurry back up the stairs. I think they're afraid they'll be here when the dragon finally comes for me."
"Why hasn't it eaten us yet?"
"I wonder that myself," Henna said. "I've been imprisoned here alone, waiting for it to come for me, but it hasn't. There's been no dragon."
"You were taken on the Solstice," Cerasa said. "You were the last one before me, I saw the Lottery."
"My name was chosen. But then, why are you here? It's only supposed to be one maiden a season."
"That's what I'm trying to figure out. Why sacrifice the two of us so close together? In all my life, I've never heard such a thing. Not in a hundred years, they say. And then, the dragon hasn't even eaten you yet." She frowned. "When you were staked out for the worm, wasn't there some commotion? An attempt to rescue you?"
"If there was, I missed it," Henna said. "Honestly, I was so terrified, an army of knights could have tried to rescue me and I wouldn't have noticed. I didn't see much of anything." She shuddered.
"I understand," Cerasa said, nodding. "So, you're not part of the resistance, then?"
"Just a myth, then, I suppose," Cerasa said. "Well, something's up. The dragon hasn't gobbled you up, and the Dark Druids thought the worm needed a second maiden in the same month. Unfortunately, they picked me."
"Well, the Goddess will look out for us both."
"Whatever," Cerasa said, unconvinced. Then, she started looking for a way to escape. Looking at the walls, she noticed shapes in the ice- hulking, indistinct shapes that didn't move. Though encased behind feet of solid glacial ice, there was a menace in them. A chill ran down her spine. "What are those?"
"I don't know," Henna said. Her voice dropped to a whisper, and she covered herself. "Sometimes I feel they are watching me. I don't like to look at the shapes."
"They ever move?"
Henna shook her head and clasped her hands tightly in prayer. She held her eyes shut tight.
"Well, if they don't bother us…" Cerasa's voice trailed off as she noticed something else, protruding from the floor of ice, just a few paces away. It was the hilt of a sword embedded in the ice. "What's that?"
Henna opened her eyes and looked where the dark-haired girl was pointing. "I think it's a sword. It wasn't there when I got here, but I didn't see how it got there, either. It just appeared when I woke up, a few days ago, I guess. Just like that, sticking out of the ice."
"Or stuck in," Cerasa said. Gingerly, she slid across the ice, making her way towards the hilt until the chain on her neck drew taught. Stretching as far as she could, she couldn't grasp it. Even trying to touch it with her feet, the sword remained just beyond her reach. The hilt was gold, and the blade beneath the ice seemed white.
"I can't reach it either, I've tried," Henna said. The chains on her wrists didn't allow her to get any closer. "Here, look at this." She pointed out what looked like a second sword, a black sword, under the ice beneath where they sat.
"That one looks like its been there a while," Cerasa said.
"Even if we weren't chained, there's still no way we could get the black one out," Henna said. "And I doubt we'd have the strength to pull the white sword free."
"Well, I still mean to escape from here," Cerasa said. "Have you tried picking the locks on your shackles?"
Henna shook her head. "They have no locks. It's like they were put on us in one piece." She looked over at Cerasa, who had pulled a small lockpick from her hair. "You can pick locks?"
Cerasa nodded. "Won't do us any good, though. Can't spring a chain with no lock."
"Do you really think we can escape from here, before the dragon comes?" Henna asked. For the first time in two weeks, hope shone in her blue eyes.
"I'm an optimist," Cerasa grinned, trying her lockpick on the ice around her neck chain. She marred the crystal-smooth surface of the ice with the tiniest of scratches. "It's a lockpick, not an icepick, but it'll have to do. We have to get out of here if I'm ever going to get my revenge against those damned druids."
Henna smiled a little as her companion began to work, doggedly scraping away at the ice beneath them.