“The dragon has scales like the black o’ night and teeth the size of yer forearm,” the merchant says.
“No one said anything in the village,” I say.
“They wouldn’t know, would they? It’s going on 50 years, since the last time he’s been seen.”
“There would be stories if what you say is true.”
“Maybe they didn’t want to scare you, lass, being new to the area and all.”
“I don’t believe you.”
With a tip of his hat, the merchant says, “Believe whatcha will.”
The decaying smell of swamp assails me as I walk away. I do not fancy living here, and prefer living in a city. I miss the neighbors and the sounds. Here visitors are frequent because of Colby’s work, but it is not the same. Now this merchant brings tales of a dragon who hunted in this area. I do not like it, not one little bit. I enter the house, sit down and start reading while I wait for Colby to finish bartering with the traveler.
The sound of hammer hitting steel signals the merchant’s departure. I put my book down, and check to make sure there is no trace of him or his wagon. Seeing none, I head to the forge.
I watch my husband slam red hot steel with a hammer. The impact bathes the forge in sparks. The noise is deafening, but I can tell his focus is intense. The sight of him in a loin cloth with the front of his torso and arms covered in protective leather still looks strange. I watch the muscles in his back as he swings the hammer and pounds the metal.
Colby sees me watching him, and I say, “Did you hear about the dragon?”
“Yes, I expect he hears and makes up many stories while on the road.”
“So you don’t believe it to be true?”
He puts down his work, walks over to me and engulfs me in a hug smelling of fire and ash.
“My love, do not fear the daydreams of some aspiring bard. He has little to do on the road but make fanciful tales.”
“So you think it made up?”
“Yes. he’s just an old man who spends too much time alone.”
Colby’s reassurances put my fears at ease, and I kiss him deeply.
“I love you,” he whispers.
I say, “I love you too,” and smile.
I finish the daily chores, and still have time to read before supper. I pull out my most treasured book, Magical Creatures. It is Colby’s gift to me from our wedding day. I turn to the page on black dragons and begin to read:
Black dragons are a medium sized with a breath of acid. They prefer swamps, bogs and marshlands. They crave treasure and sleep for long periods of time. They are not as aggressive as the reds, but they are still evil.
The weeks pass, and I forget about the merchant’s fantasies. Colby and I enjoy time together talking and reading. We buy books and spend the night discussing them at length. Our first year of marriage is glorious.
It is a joy to have someone to talk with who cares for what I have to say. Men are so troublesome when it comes to listening to a woman’s mind. Colby is different; he sees me. He appreciates my opinions, and it is one of the many reasons I love him.
On a drizzly twilight, a midwife confirms my suspicion; I am pregnant. Overjoyed, I run to the forge to tell Colby as the midwife leaves. She believes I carry a girl, and I worry that message will not be taken well. Men prefer male children, and I fear his disappointment, but I am still elated.
“I’m pregnant,” I say.
Colby turns and grins, “That’s good news!”
“The midwife thinks it’s a girl.”
His delight never falters, “We’re going ta be parents…”
“I know!” I say as we embrace.
We talk about names and building a crib. We discuss clothes and buying a cow. The excitement of the baby keeps us up late into the night, and we fall asleep holding each other.
The next night when I call to Colby that dinner is ready, I hear something large breaking through the trees of the swamp. Upon hearing the noise, Colby and I go inside of the security of our home.
“What is that?”
“I have no idea, but it’s big,” Colby says as he draws his bow and scans the swamplands behind our home.
Something twice the size of a wagon breaks through the tree line. The ebony dragon advances on its two powerful hind legs. Its wings curl to its sides, to prevent them from catching in the trees. The sight of it fills me with terror. It stops to look at the clearing around our home and lifts its head. Its nostrils flare and a foul stench overcomes me. It notices our movement, and rushes the house. Colby’s arrow hits the dragon in its right shoulder. The tip barely penetrates the skin.
The dragon’s head lowers as he peers into the window. I hear a deep intake of air, and it snaps me out of my terror. Colby pushes me into the front of the house as the acid blasts through the small window. The spray covers the entire room and splatters onto Colby’s back. The smell of acid is so pungent I vomit in my mouth.
Time slows down as we scramble to get away from the dragon. I hear the dragon’s claws raking the roof off the house. I see Colby struggling to stand, and then I see his back. The skin is gone, the muscle is exposed and I can see the white of bones clearly. In my shock it seems unreal, as if his skin is a shirt, and I need him to put his shirt back on.
The dragon’s hole in the roof expands, and I expect another breath attack. Unable to open the front door, Colby uses the window beside it. The gruesome wounds on his back should have killed him, but he grabs me off the floor, and tosses me sailing into the front yard.
“Run!” is the last word he ever speaks.
Paralyzed in the front yard, I watch in horror as the dragon looms over my home. The drake’s acid strikes Colby. The acid flows over him like thick green drops of water. The shower melts off his face, leaving his skull and jaw open in a soundless scream of agony. I lay in horror as I watch my darling devoured by this enormous winged serpent.
He is gone, and I am left with a hole where my heart used to be. Everything is gone. . .
I wail as I understand he is gone, gone forever!
I wail my voice ragged.
I wail every time I relive his death, as he tries crying out to me.
I wail. I know hunger and thirst and yet I wail.
I wail as my mind loops through our life together, knowing that I will never experience moments like that with him again.
I wail that he is gone. Truly, permanently gone. Never again will I see his smile or feel his touch.
I wail at losing half my soul.
No sound emerges and yet I try; even without voice my loss still needs out.
I have no notion how long I sit replaying the final moments of his life over and over again. I try to yell and scream, but my body will not obey. I put every ounce of my pain and suffering into my scream. Everything falls away but trying to make my voice work again. The sorrow pounds me for release.
I feel time pass and my body transforming. I concentrate on making my voice heard. I move but not with my legs; my body is no longer human. The oddity of it breaks my focus. The overgrowth of weeds mean several months must have passed.
I move to the place where he died. I look down at the scarred stone and finally funnel all my grief and pain into noise. I sound much louder and stronger than I ever did while human. The keening sound of my cry shatters the windows, and some part of my mind knows me as the mournful spirit foretelling death. I am a banshee.
I know things. I know how to cast magic. I know I do not have milk to nurture my daughter and need to find someone who does. About to give birth, my knowledge includes the time of my pregnancy. The art of how to mask my unborn child jumps to mind. I just need to find a wet mother with a girl child to replace.
I search for homes not protected with iron, and find a defenseless cottage. The spell I weave puts their child in a form of stasis while mine can develop and strengthen. As I leave, the loss of my child overwhelms me. I wander lost, unable to find my home.
I hear sounds of merriment and waves of anger hit me.
How can they be joyous? How dare they?
I will make them pay.
I enter the clearing and scream at them. I will end their happiness, and I give them all my mourning and anguish. My cry kills all ten of the fairies and turns them pure white.
I did not want to kill them, and the shame of it brings me back to thoughts of Colby. I become engrossed in my thoughts again. I travel to where I lost everything, to the place that defines me: Boglamore.