Saturday, January 5, 2018
I had the next episode of Copper, the Alchemist, and the Woman in Trousers ready to post today. Instead, we’re visiting Atonement, TN. Why? Diana Wallace Peach started a new monthly feature at her blog, Myths of the Mirror. I caved into the temptation to play along. Click the link to learn more.
Diana issued this lovely image as a prompt. I mistakenly thought she titled it “Ice Dragon” but that was actually the first reply to her prompt… Okay, so I’ve got a lot going on… and I’m blind as a bat too. (eye roll) So, now she has two “Ice Dragon” responses. My bad. What’s done is done.
I made mine part of my “Atonement, Tennessee” universe. I’ll leave Ralda Lawton to tell you about it.
Shivering uncontrollably, I stiffly swung my legs off the bed. The floor was not terribly cold, I couldn’t help being surprised to notice.
The brass bed was up to its old tricks.
Not long after I moved into the rundown estate house in the quaint, but not so peaceful town of Atonement, Tennessee, I learned it was no ordinary bed. It gave one dreams. The dreams were often violent and always strange. The trouble was that the far-fetched scenarios also had something to do with reality.
“I have got to get rid of that bed,” I muttered aloud.
Lilith, my cat, meowed in reply. The calico was still nestled warmly in the covers, where my knees had been a moment before.
I shuddered, remembering the dream, and not just because it left me cold. The dream froze my heart with the pain of betrayal, abandonment, and isolation.
Instantly all the events and feelings of the dream rushed back into my mind and my body. Sudden pain pierced my ribs. I fell back onto my bed.
It started as another prophetic dream from that bed had begun, with Arianrhod’s silver wheel.
In the dream I hung precariously from the spokes of the wheel, taunted by voices that were not seen. In fact, they weren’t really heard either, but I knew what they said nonetheless.
Despair overtook me and I relaxed my grip on the wheel. I wondered if I should simply fall into the nothingness.
A gust of artic air lashed my skin. My hands knew the pain of extreme cold. The joints of my fingers stiffened. As the wind howled, I lost my hold and fell.
My heart hammered wildly. My arms flailed useless as I tumbled.
Then a fiery jolt rocked me as something hit my rib-cage. My descent into nothing stopped.
I gasped first in pain, and again in shock. I was flying. Or rather the massive beast that caught me flew.
The impact to my ribs caused me to shift uncomfortably. Then I realized that I was held in huge talons. I abruptly stopped moving. Even if it had not hurt to take air into my lungs, I would have been afraid to breathe.
My hands grasped an icy talon, desperate to hold on, in case the beast dropped me.
The midnight clouds retreated, allowing the moon to light the sky. Tiny lights winked far below. As the beast flew lower, I recognized the town of Atonement.
I felt a gentle shift of the creature’s muscles as its wings caught a current of air that again took us higher. Moments later it deposited me on a ridge. I could see the town below. A few people were out and about at the late hour. They were so far away that they seemed like ants.
Oddly, they carried lanterns. Suddenly I wondered when I was.
I didn’t realize that I was crying until I felt the tears begin to freeze. Trails of tears froze on my cheeks and collected at my chin, as if they would form an icy beard. With the back of my hand I brushed the cold moisture from my face.
A sound like steam from an old-fashioned radiator caused me to turn. It was the beast.
In the moon’s light I could see it clearly. The creature’s hide was blue as if with cold. Everything about it was either blue or white, from pale blue eyes that glittered like diamonds to the white clawed tips of its blue wings.
It snorted, causing a cloud of condensation. Although its breath was only slightly warm on the cool night air.
Fortunately, and I use the term loosely, I’d had enough experience with the brass bed to know that I dreamed. Else I would have been terrified, rather than just scared witless.
“Who― Why―” I stammered unable to find sufficient words for the many questions that collided in my mind. “Are you a― an―”
“Dragon?” it supplied. “An ice dragon?”
The steam sound came again in a quick succession of hisses.
“Are you laughing?” I was startled into asking.
The giant pale blue eye nearest me blinked. I could have sworn I saw the glint of mischief there.
“Look down there, Esmeralda,” it began in a rumble.
The creature instructed and jutted out its icy bearded chin as if pointing toward the town below.
It worried me that it named me Esmeralda rather than the shortened “Ralda” that I claimed for my name. In my experience up until then with my new town, that didn’t bode well. The supernaturals were the only ones who insisted on calling me Esmeralda.
“I borrowed Arianrhod’s wheel to speak with you, and though her power is nothing compared to mine, I will only borrow it, not take it. Of course, I could have used the Queen of Winter to relay a message… but the wheel amuses me,” the ice dragon rambled in a reflective tone before getting back to business.
“But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. On occasion I give in to an odd, altruistic impulse. So, I have brought you here to impart something important,” the dragon told me.
I was much too close and it was far too large for me to be able to see more than the one eye. However, that eye narrowed slyly.
“I probably should not tell you, but where would the fun be in following rules? You, Esmeralda,” it used my given name again and the tone suggested it knew the thought I had about that a moment before. “If you want to break the cycle that keeps giving you rebirth into the same betrayed, embattled situations. If you want to one day be born into a safe, loving existence, then you must learn and understand your origins.”
I stopped breathing. With ice in the pit of my stomach, I knew that dream was just as prophetic and just as real as the first dream ― the first time I dreamed in the brass bed. I also knew the real events that would result from the dream would be equally dangerous, and worse, full of detestable fae magic!
“But Esmeralda, that is not enough. The Queen of Winter could tell you that much ― although she would make you earn the knowledge, probably through that willful mirror. What you also must learn and understand is the origin of the town itself,” the dragon added.
Abruptly, rough gusts of cold wind battered me. I staggered backward. The ice dragon lifted into the night sky. I stared up at the darkness. Then I looked down at the tiny lights of the town below.
I jerked convulsively when the hiss of laughter was again at my shoulder, through whatever kind of magic the dragon held.
“Esmeralda, you must comprehend that some inhabitants of Atonement are not there to atone. They have a fundamental relationship with the place. If you want to survive, you need a better understanding of the townsfolk, like the Metatron sisters. And you must, must understand why the wings of Cael Adriel are black, rather than gold,” the dragon finished emphatically.
The huge blue eye glittered playfully. It blinked and the dragon was abruptly gone.
“Now wake, Esmeralda!”
Shuddering, gasping, I tried to shake off the aftereffects of the dream.
“Coffee… I really, really need coffee,” I muttered.
Lilith jumped down from the bed and went to the door. In her mind, coffee meant breakfast for her.
I gave a different kind of groan when I sat up on the edge of the bed. I lifted my pajama top and looked in the mirror.
A wide bruise purpled across my ribs.
Now some shameless self-promotion.
Universal link to my Amazon Author Page
USA: Atonement in Bloom
USA: Atonement, Tennessee
(E-book still on sale at 99¢ )
This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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