Dragons Eye II - Salvation and Ruin
This is a continuation of the Dragon Eye series I first published on G+ a couple of years ago. I will publish new pieces of the story every couple of days...
Copyright Dark Aelf, 2021
Anthem woke in a small bedroom, the curtains drawn, and a Sinead O'Connor song playing quietly in the background.
An unfamiliar voice said, "You will be fine, eh? Try to rest a little more."
Anthem gasped for air, trying to fill her lungs, but feeling the numbness returning. She felt a warm cloth pressed against her cheeks and brow.
In the air, above her, she saw dragons and strange birds. And she fell back asleep.
She drifted in and out of sleep chasing a song about lonely tears falling. Sometimes when she woke, she felt a searing pain in her leg. Sometimes she heard people talking in the distance. Sometimes daylight crept into the room, illuminating a shelf of toys and an old mobile of fanciful creatures. Sometimes it was night, with a soft bedside light gently illuminating part of the room, with a seat and a closed door. Sometimes the chair was occupied, with a woman her age, sitting with glasses reading. Sometimes, it was the girl Elsie she saw. Each time they turned to her as they saw her stir and helped her slip back into sleep.
Finally, she woke; the pain just a dull throbbing memory. Anthem turned and saw the little girl smile.
Elsie said softly, "There you are. You are amazing. I told my mum we found you hurt in the park. She has been looking after you." She held her finger to her mouth, "Don't tell her about the..."
An older woman appeared behind Elsie. Anthem tried to move but found her body still numb. "And what should your park friend not tell me, Miss? Eh?"
Anthem tried to speak, but her voice was full of bits that didn't come out right and ended in a cough.
The older woman asked Elsie to fetch a cup of tea and took Elsie's place at the bedside. She helped Anthem take a sip of water, "My daughter thinks very highly of you."
Anthem thanked her with her eyes and then introduced herself in halting tones, trying to breathe between the words, "I am Anthem. I am lost."
"I am Hana. You know my daughter Elsie. I will introduce you to a couple of cats who have been keeping watch over you tomorrow." Hana smiled, "You found my daughter, and for that you are welcome in my home."
There was a touch of pain here; the pain of separation. To fill the space, Hana explained how Elsie arrived home, and to her great happiness, they were able to call off the search for her daughter and defer questions long enough to retrieve Anthem quietly.
Hana said quietly, "You understand, I am worried about Elsie. Since she returned, she has spent a lot of time alone, talking to herself. I want to understand. I have lots of questions."
Elsie brought the tea in, and Hana tested it. Elsie's eyes were bright as she sat at the bottom of the bed. She chirped, "Did you know, you are sleeping in my bedroom." She pointed to the mobile, "I have my own dragons."
Anthem took a sip and felt life returning to her body, and let her eyes wander around the room, trying to ignore a small web in a far corner, "Thank you, I hope I have not been too much trouble."
Hana teased, "It’s been seven hours and fifteen days..." and when Anthem's eye widened laughed and said, "Just a couple of days; hardly any trouble at all."
Anthem looked at Hana, wondering how much Hana would believe. Hana started, "My daughter told me one heck of a story..."
Elsie blurted out, "It was all true. Anthem found me in the park when I got lost. Then she was bitten, and I could not leave her until..."
Hana smiled, "I am sure that some of that happened. Miss, but I also told you not to play in the park. Now I need to know all the details. We have lived here long enough to see the strange and weird things that go on over there. If I could get another job, away from the hospital, by Joseph Banks's spit, we would move in a heart-beat."
Anthem said tentatively, "So, you know about the spiders, in the park?"
"Elsie and I provide healthy food and warm blankets to the homeless. I have cared for enough of them to hear their stories: their alcohol and drug and plant fueled stories of the missing ones and spiders. I didn't believe any of them."
Anthem was momentarily distracted, "Plant?"
"I think that some of the plants in the park must be naturally hallucinogenic. But the alcohol is probably the real villain."
Anthem continued, "The spider that poisoned me was a pretty big spider. How did you save me?"
"I have seen those bites before; some of the homeless get them. The toxin numbs but does not kill nor injure. It wears off after a couple of days. The real risk is that the wound gets infected. I have washed and kept your injury clean and sterile." She paused for a moment and added, "My daughter told me you would be distressed if you ended up at the hospital."
Anthem shivered, and pushed her body higher onto a pillow, so she could see Elsie. She asked, "Do you mind me asking, do you work at the hospital? Are you a doctor or nurse?"
Hana replied, "No, I don't mind. I have a general administrative job: glorified cleaning really. I earn enough to pay the rent on this place and make sure Elsie goes to school."
Hana shot Elsie a sharp look. Elsie wriggled at the bottom of the bed. She continued, "Elsie and I help out with the homeless mission when we are not off saving the world from coal or politicians."
"I was once told that the poison would kill if not treated."
"I have heard those stories. A faith healer in the mountains spreads them for her own purposes."
"The faith healer: does she have a name? Something like the old dragon lady?"
"The homeless give her many names, and perhaps there are more than one of them. Maybe the homeless are referring to different people. But yes, I have heard that name."
Hana caught Anthem's eye, "Stay away from her. People who seek help from the old dragon lady come back changed, if they come back at all."
Anthem shook her head, "I have been bitten once before."
"I saw. You have a scar on your side."
"An old man, Bob, took me to see her. The old... faith healer nursed me back to health. But I escaped."
Hana nodded, "I remember him. An old trawlerman. He lived in the park for years. We used to leave him food. He has been missing for a long time now."
"He is alive."
"I hope so but will only believe it when I see him again. He was in terrible shape."
Silence filled the room. The sounds of the song drifted into the room. Anthem finished the tea, "That song, what is it?"
Hana shrugged the question away, "There are always people in the park, and the song is coming from over there."
Then Hana bent over and gave Elsie a hug and brought her closer. "Are you strong enough to tell me your story? I don't care if it is alcohol-fueled or not. I just want it to be true, eh? Somehow, you have brought my child back to me, and I owe you that."
Anthem looked at Elsie, "I think I have slept long enough. Before I tell my story, your daughter has something of mine." Anthem smiled at Elsie, "I would like it back, now. I need Fire to help find my daughter, please..."
Elsie said levelly, "No. He is mine now. Fire does not wish to return to you. He told me you planned to kill him."
There was a moment of silence as tension crackled between Anthem and Elsie.
Hana looked confused and half stood, "What!"
Elsie slid off the bed, suddenly appearing taller than her years, "Fire and I..." She liked the sound of that, so said it again, slowly with deliberation, "Fire and I... We have made a pact, guaranteed by gold, never to part."
Anthem gasped. Hana shook her head silently pleading with Anthem for help with this sudden descent into insanity.
Elsie reached into her overalls and drew out a small bag that shimmered with aelven thread. She undid a gold flecked cord and spilled a small trove of gold onto the bed.
Elsie said, "Not insanity, not imagination: solid gold. By this horde, Fire and I are one. Forever."
back to the Index to Dragons Eye II (index, characters, background, maps)
A Canadian friend, Ann Pollak, once called this a braided story-telling style. After a couple of brief interludes, the third braid will be introduced to complete the first cycle of the story.Image: Tellurion constructed from a brass kit produced by Eaglemoss & Model of Anthem from a sculpture by A Gagarin from an illustration by V Fyodorov.