The small child, midway into her second year after birth, wiggled to be free from the arms holding her. She was set down onto her feet and she ran forward, stumbling several times on the uneven ground, to the edge of the clearing. She stopped where the ground ended and looked down. Below was a cliff so steep, it frightened her. She stepped back and turned around to the person who had brought her out of the mountain and through the forest. She was alone; the only thing she could see were trees and darkness.
She looked around, unsure of where to go or what to do. She had been asked if she wanted to see a real dragon and when she had nodded, was promised that if she came here, she would see one. She turned back to look out over the cliff, across the waters onto the horizon. A blue-green flash of light caught her attention and then vanished just as Ra began to peek over the edge of the world.
A sudden wind swirled around her body, catching her silvery blue dress and making it dance about her. She heard a low vibrational sound like the conch shell her father blew to call the wind and looked around for him. He was nowhere in sight.
A hard gust from behind propelled her little body forward and she looked up. The tops of the trees bent downward as though they were bowing to an unseen divine being; much the same as the Dragon Watchers did each time they encountered her grandfather. A white cloud hovered over her and as she watched, it twirled round and round, shaping itself into a blue and white dragon; its body was long and serpentine, but with wings that were no bigger than her outstretched arms.
The dragon started to spiral down towards her, its head looming large, appearing as if it would swallow her. She had only ever seen images the Dragon Watchers had sketched with their brushes and was unprepared for the frighteningly monstrous form hurtling down towards her. She fell backwards onto the ground, her eyes squeezed tightly shut.
After a while, she realized she had not been gobbled up. Rather, she could hear the dragons' breathing and feel it’s hot breath over her entire body. She opened one eye slightly, peeping through the narrow slits of her lids at the dragon and saw that it had stopped and was coiled up just in front of her. It stared at her with its head tilted slightly to one side, seeming to carefully assess her. The child then opened her other eye and tilted her head from side to side, mirroring the dragon as she also did her own observation.
When the dragon did not appear as if it wanted to eat her, the child slowing lifted herself onto her feet to stand before it. As the child watched, the dragon began to shrink itself until it was not so large in size. It swirled around the child then wrapped itself about the child’s body from her feet to just beneath her arms, its head nestled beside hers. Although the dragon was tightly holding her, it was not squeezing her uncomfortably; she felt quite safe and allowed her hands to rest upon the dragon’s body that was surrounding her chest.
The child felt her body being lifted off her feet and into the air. She screamed, but there was no pain, and she did not fall. She looked at the land falling away from her as she rose higher with the dragon and she laughed excitedly as the wind rushed around her face and fluttered her hair everywhere. She was too happy to care where the dragon was taking her. There was no thought of her mother or father, anyone else, or anything at all, within her mind.
Kilara Aewn had woken before dawn to complete her ablutions before navigating her way through the labyrinth of passageways until she reached the chamber of the Triple Goddess, the inner sanctum of the temple located at the center of Mount Danu. Whenever she was in the temple, it was her dayrise ritual to break the night’s fast with the Veiled One before beginning their daily trainings for the future Dragon Maise.
The first thing Kilara noticed as she entered the chamber, was the chaos. This was a sacred space rarely subject to noise above quietly voiced conversations and whispers of the wind through the upper tunnels and personal chambers. Now, astonishingly, there were several people surrounding the Veiled One; all appearing to have worried faces; all speaking at the same time in frantic voices.
Rarely did anyone approach the Veiled One. More often than not, they avoided her presence by walking through the corridors surrounding the chamber of the Triple Goddess. One young woman of similar age standing to her right side had grabbed hold of her arm and was shaking it slightly as she spoke.
‘Please remain calm’, the Veiled One was saying, she turned towards the distraught woman. ‘I do not know your child, Canora. I can only see those who are close to me or whom I have previously met at the very least. Kilara Aewn may be able to assist you more, I’m sure.’
Kilara moved closer to join them. The Veiled One saw her first and left the group, meeting her part way to speak outside the hearing range of the others. ‘Kilara, Canora and her young child, Suliehae, arrived with the Dragon Watchers after the high Moontides had passed last eve. They were settled into the eastern chambers but when she awoke this dawn, her child was nowhere to be found in the mountain. The Dragon Watchers are out searching with our guards and others who were woken earlier.
‘The Ban Shee…? Kilara asked.
‘None saw her leave the mountain.’ The Veiled One leaned closer to Kilara and whispered, ’I heard the Ban Shee guard say there was an absence of spirit in the child; they cannot sense her presence anywhere.’
‘But that only happens when…’ Kilara left her sentence unfinished. It was not right to speak of it and alarm the mother until they knew for certain what had occurred.
‘Sulie…!’ Everyone turned to watch as Canora rushed towards the chamber’s doorway. Four Ban Shee guards were entering, one carrying a small child. A couple of Dragon Watchers followed closely behind them.
Canora hurriedly lifted her child out of the arms of the Ban Shee holding her and hugged her close. When she felt reassured that she was not dreaming, she held Sulie away from her body, ‘Sulie…where did you go? Umma was so worried! Don’t ever do this again!’ Canora was emotional, worried but upset and berating her child at the same time.
Druihaie, head of the Ban Shee guard of Mount Danu stepped forward to speak with Canora. ‘Danihaie, my sister’, she gestured toward the Ban Shee who had previously been holding the child, ‘discovered your daughter sitting calmly by the entrance gate as we were conducting our search.’
‘May we ask Sulie a question?’, she continued softly, not wishing to unsettle the child. ‘We would also like to know where she has been and how she was able to leave the mount.’
Now that the child was safe in her mother’s arms, Druihaie observed and examined her more closely. Her clothes were torn and tattered, yet there did not appear to be a single scratch on her skin.
‘She does not speak, but for single words occasionally', her mother said.
Sulie lifted her head from where it was tucked into her mother’s chest and looked at Druihaie. Her steady unblinking gaze was dark but gleamed with a golden glow full of knowledge for a moment, then it was gone.
Although the Ban Shee showed no emotion on her features, Kilara sensed the uneasiness in Druihaie and moved to see what it was that was bothering her. The child turned her gaze to Kilara, and she too saw the brief gleam of knowledge before it vanished.
‘Sekaila!’, Sulie said loudly and clearly, just as Druihaie opened her mouth but before she could voice her question.
‘That’s impossible,’ Druihaie whispered and took a few steps back, away from the mother and child. Kilara moved with her. She too was now filled with questions. Sekaila was the name of the most ancient of Cloud Dragons. No one had seen her for thousands of years. She had become a myth the masters of Dragon Watchers told to the young.
‘It’s not possible, is it, Kilara?’, Druihaie asked. She was dumbfounded.
‘We are seeing it. It must be true. Though how it came to be, I do not know.’ Kilara told her quietly.
Druihaie considered the child’s heritage. It was possible she knew of Sekaila from stories she had heard. ‘The Dragon Watchers who walked with us said Suliehae is the lone grandchild of the Dragon Watchers’ master’, she informed Kilara. ‘Could she be the next master? Though...none have previously been female', she added.
Kilara understood the confoundedness Druihaie was feeling and her need for an explanation. No one beside another Ban Shee of equal ability or Dragon Maise could decern the thoughts of a Ban Shee like Druihaie who was a master herself at silencing her inner voice.
‘I cannot sense a spirit within her, and yet…she is alive.’ Druihaie said. Kilara nodded in agreement. She too had sensed the absence of spirit in the child. And there was more.
‘She smells of Anaar blossoms.’ Druihaie said, their thoughts aligning. Kilara had caught a whiff of the subtle scent as well when she had been standing close to the child. Anaar trees only grew on the Isle of An and were inaccessible by land. One needed to travel there by sea or air. The rakta coloured seeds produced by the blossoms was much loved by the Huang, the female flower serpent of the Dragon species, though the Huang had not been seen for a long time; their births were few and far between.
‘We will need to explore this incident more closely. There are inconsistencies that are disconcerting here. We do not know how she was able to leave the mount without us being aware of it.’ Druihaie informed Kilara.
Something stirred in Kilara’s mind; the sense of an impending disturbance, a shifting in the world that would make a different future for them all. She now felt the same uneasiness that Druihaie had felt earlier. This child may well play an important role in bringing about the uncertain world Kilara had seen in her visions.