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The Quiet Ones

There be dragons

By Hannah MoorePublished 2 years ago 6 min read
4
The Quiet Ones
Photo by Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

There weren’t always dragons in the valley. A long time ago, the wide delta lay spread below table top ridges high above, oats, corn and wheat patchworking the land, embroidered with pockets of peas and beans, and trimmed with fruit trees which blossomed pink and white each spring, and mellowed to yellow as the men and women of the valley turned the rich, silted soil ready for winter planting. Feast days in the valley, where food was never scarce, were richer in music, dancing and song, as no one feared the hunger of the coming months. No one remembered that now. There was no one to remember it. The story was that after the Silver Wars, the twelve dragons of Lashkan had been banished to the island, where they had lain down side by side and end to end, and with one spell so fierce it had used up all the magic left in the world, been turned to stone. An eternal punishment for an eternal slight. Never mind they had all been on the same side.

Today, the rocky spines of Drakon Valley jutted into the sea, six long, undulating ridges flanked by deep green slopes. The people of Five Rivers farmed goats and hosted visitors, who revelled in the romanticism of the scenery, but seldom spent enough money. On feast days, the townsfolk drank, fought and cursed the mothers who bore them. The mothers who, warm faced in the hopeful glow of single tallow candles, had once told them stories of dragons and kings, and gods and magic. Stories they sold on to travellers in sturdy boots with eyes as narrowed as their own had been wide in the light pricked dark all those years before.

Those stories had been one of the few gifts Sasha’s mother had been able to give her, huddled under shared blankets, small together in vast adventures. They rode together, soaring and swooping as the dragons plundered palace after palace, searching the four kingdoms. Together, they felt the heat of the fire building in the great beasts’ bellies, heard the roar and hiss as tongues of flame dried lakes and rivers, and together, they turned their faces to the dazzling light that engulfed them, feeling their limbs harden as flesh turned to stone right there in their bed at the head of the valley, those great scaled bodies laying cold in the dark beneath them. But when morning came, those ridges were, after all, just water sculpted rock, and that blinding light was overshadowed by the gloom of privy where Sasha emptied their night water into the pit below. Time, each turn of the earth, and every turn of the earth, turn after turn, had turned history to legend, and legend to myth once again. Some nights, there were no stories. Some nights, Sasha’s mother stiffened at Sasha’s touch, and turned her back to her daughter. Some nights Sasha learned not to put a hand on her mother’s back when she trembled and cried out in her sleep.

The night Sasha was conceived, her mother had been raped five times. One time, the way they told it, if they told it at all. But five times, the way it had been. Growing up, speculation as to which seed had punctured her mother’s egg, sealing it off to all other comers behind it, had led to constant watchful criticism. The way she scowled, the way she couldn’t sleep. The way she hungered, the way she needed loving, the way she cried. All her faults belonged to one of five men. Sashsa was never sure where the parts her mother hated stopped and the parts she loved began. She was never sure if she was allowed. And yet, she could not help being, even just a little.

Her mother was a tall woman, dark and still, and Sasha, fire haired and quick, should have found it harder to stay in her shadow. Children adapt, however, and if Sasha couldn’t quite make herself invisible at home, she was largely overlooked outside of it. At 19, the world was disinterested in her. This was, largely, a mutually convenient arrangement. Sasha preferred to pass unnoticed, and the town preferred not to remember the rumours about her heritage. Sasha herself had spent her adolescence looking for clues in the face or manners of every man she encountered but had, at last, persuaded herself of the irrelevance of her lineage. Instead, she had delved into other histories, reading all she could in the town’s minimal public library. When she finished the history texts, she sought volumes on scientific theory, priding herself on her knowledge of the geology of the valley. But in private, on nights her mother didn’t come home, or lay drunk and snoring beside her, Sasha read the prophesies. She had found the small, leather bound book wrapped in a brown woollen shawl, amongst her mother’s things, deep in her chest, so obviously hidden that it was irresistible to her. She had read it, cover to cover, six times and now she could turn quickly to any section she thought she may have new insight about, or any part that resembled an event of the day. When a goat had been born dead but with the appearance of a full grown ram, she had known where to look for what it might portent. And when a girl from the Second Fork had sat up in bed, bald as a snake, leaving her hair on the pillow behind her, she had been ready for the floods which came the following spring.

It wasn’t as if the prophesies cropped up daily. Since she had found the book, four years had passed and only one of her many interpretations had come to be. The floods had been catastrophic for the town, each of the quarters sustaining more damage than they could afford to repair. Rendered unsightly and stinking of rot, Five Rivers made efforts to cover its wounds with more window boxes and flower troughs than ever before, but travellers had passed through more quickly in the following seasons, and so two years after the rivers had returned to their normal paths, only the richest people, whose houses had sustained the least damage anyway, had found the money to rebuild.

Most of Sasha’s interpretations had proven wrong. She assumed the fault was hers and not the unknown prophet’s, and so she worked harder, revisiting the worn pages again and again, her guilt that she had not warned the town about the floods bringing her back deep into the night. Yet there was another reason, too, and where thoughts of her failure left a hollow nausea in her belly, this one filled it with a nervous fluttering. The more she read it, the more sure she became. One of these stories was about her. And if it was to be true, then perhaps all the other stories were too.

Fantasy
4

About the Creator

Hannah Moore

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (4)

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  • The Invisible Writer4 months ago

    This was one of my favorite challenges. Reading this I was intrigued by the hints of the larger story to come. The tragic beginning, a mystery from the path, a mc unsure of her place in this world. This had all the elements of a great epic. Well done Hannah

  • Donna Fox (HKB)4 months ago

    Wow.... this was breath taking! A beautiful opening chapter to a heart palpitating adventure!! You've left me craving more and I absolutely love that! Great work Hannah!!

  • Paul Stewart4 months ago

    Well now, Ms Moore...This was a great little read. Was doing a bit of a deep dive for Donna Fox's challenge and thought I'd look into your older pieces. Loved this...loved the main character. Sasha sounds like a great heroine in the making. Well done on producing this from the prompt for the dragon challenge. Loved all the detailing and characterisation and the way you seamlessly weaved in information about the setting, the people and the horrific details of her conception. Brilliant storytelling.

  • Ralph Brew2 years ago

    Ralph Brew (You) less than a minute ago The layers you build of a misbegotten child, conceived in abuse, of a search for painful identity, of a secret book of arcane knowledge and a mother who keeps secrets are confronting and haunting. A very compelling prologue. With a twist that the contents could maybe be about herself! Though why is not clear yet. Very well written. I hope you get the chance to write more.

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