A Dream of Flight.
In just one night, the Watch Towers fell.
As an island, other nations had seen them as weak. They lacked the resources to fund a large army or navy. Their land had been subjected to raids and attacks until the great lords had gathered their strength and set up the coastal watch. But the great defence structure the lords put in place to protect their island kingdoms proved ineffectual. There was no time to send the message from one beacon to the next or to ready a host. Despite all their preparations the attacks did not come from the sea where the ships would have been spotted or from overland in a wave of rebellious uprising. The attacks were unexpected. They came from beneath!
Kyle was dreaming he could fly. He had the same dream every night. In his dream, he had no idea what kept him in the air but he could always feel the wind battering against his face as he soared through the sky. Tonight, like every night, the dream felt so real until he was woken by a noise which was almost too loud to hear. He could feel the vibrations of the sound violently shaking his pallet as he tried to cling to the last remnants of sleep. But it was the scream that finally brought him to full consciousness. It sounded like the scream, Shanae, his little sister let loose when ever she was hurt or scared. Or whenever she wanted something of his that he wasn’t prepared to share.
However if there was one thing that Kyle’s father had drummed into him all his short life, it was that a man had a duty to take care of his family and that included annoying little sisters. He couldn’t understand what she would be doing out of bed at this time of night but Kyle took his responsibilities seriously. He gathered the energy to push himself out of his warm bed, grabbed his itchy grey tunic and little wooden practice sword that sat on the chair and he ran towards the door.
Kyle found himself overwhelmed by the cacophony of sights and sounds that awaited him outside. The only thing he really noticed was the smell. The bitter, salty scent of seaweed that had always existed in the background, sat in a heavy layer over the town. The smell was as tangible as the noise had been earlier, alive with a richness and it had never held before.
As his mind adjusted to the chaos of battle, Kyle began to notice his neighbours. Old Mother Rowen was stumbling through the puddles on her unsteady legs, ignoring the thick red water as it splashed up onto the hem of her dress. Master Brennan the smith, the strongest man he had ever known (apart from his father) was curled up on his side like a baby, his back pressed against the wall of the forge whilst inside the forge fire ran rampant. Everywhere he looked there were people, some of them where running, others where lying down or standing still and among them from nowhere there appeared dirty, misshapen, creatures with wicked blades and brutal swords.
Through a gap in the crowds Kyle spotted his sister. Shanae stood in the middle of the crowded thoroughfare, her cherubic face streaked by tears and her mouth opened wide to allow free rein to her screams. She appeared oblivious to the chaos that surrounded her. Perhaps it would be like it was with the bogeyman, thought Kyle; if Shanae just ignored the monsters, then maybe they would ignore her.
All Shanae knew was that she was scared and cold and that when she screamed her mummy was supposed to come, but she had been screaming so long that her little throat was sore and still her mummy was nowhere around. Shanae just wanted to be held.
Kyle made to run to his baby sister and though his wooden sword was no match for the bone and metal blades wielded by the creatures, he knew he would do his best to protect her. Before he could move to Shanae’s rescue, a hand grabbed at Kyle, lifting him off his feet and pressing him in close to a well built chest.
The man began to run from the fighting with the boy held securely in his arms. He used his free hand to press Kyle’s head firmly against the dragon emblem embroidered on his tunic. The only mercy he could give the boy was in stopping him from turning to look as two of the creatures appeared at the side of his sister. The boy didn’t need to see them slash at her with their weapons. He didn’t need to witness them grabbing her in their twisted arms and dragging her with them back into the dank, cold ground. It was a memory that no one should have to form. So he ran with the boy till the darkness swallowed the up the village behind them.
Kyle struggled against his captor until his sister’s screams stopped abruptly. In his mind he knew that if she no longer cried she was no longer in pain. He had failed her. Kyle couldn’t see anymore point in trying to get free. All he had managed to do was scratch himself on the embroidered dragon. He wished the man had never grabbed him and that the nightmares had killed him as well. How could his parents ever forgive him for not saving Shanae?
The man who had grabbed him placed him gently down in the shelter of the watch tower stables. Kyle turned his head quickly away trying to hide his tears. But even here in this place that Kyle usually thought of as refuge there was no peace to be found. Shanae had loved to come to the stables, she had always squealed in delight when the horses had snorted or stamped their feet. Now it was the horses that were squealing, frightened by the noises drifting up from the town and injuring themselves as they crashed against their stalls, trying to break free. Kyle placed his hands over his ears to block out not just the sounds of the horses but everything that had happened since he woke up. The man knelt down beside him and gently pried Kyle’s hands down to his side.
‘I know this is hard on you boy, but we don’t have the time for you to fall apart on me now,’ he pushed a dirty brown curl out of the boy’s eye, ‘ these things, the Guin, are supposed to be just a myth. My Gramma told me tales of them when I was young to frighten me into being good. It’s why we wear this emblem, it’s meant to ward them off, but I reckon it’s only the real thing that’s strong enough to help. She said if they took someone with them they would keep that person as a slave, so your sister may still be alive. But if you don’t listen to me and do what I tell you there will be no one left to save her.’
Kyle raised his head and looked at the man. He was older than Kyle had thought, with grey hair on his temples and wrinkles around his kind looking eyes. He looked familiar. ‘Who are you?’
‘I’m part of the watch with your father. You have to go to him boy; he alone knows how to salvage something from this. The Guin will try to stop but they can’t break through the courtyard cobblestones. I’ll guard your back, boy, make sure you get safely to the tower.’
‘If he has this power, why didn’t he save Shanae? And where is my mother?’ Kyle found it hard to keep from bursting into tears again as he spoke of his family.
The man’s face softened as he looked down at Kyle, ‘I think that’s something you will have to ask your father, boy.’
‘DON’T CALL ME BOY! I-I-I have a name.’
‘ Of course you do,Kyle,’ the man replied as he led Kyle to the stable door.’ Now, RUN!’
Kyle stumbled before his boots found traction on the cobbles. As he was running he could hear the sound of metal striking metal and, in the distance, screams from the town but less now than they’d been before. The watch man was doing his best to hold back the Guin. It took all Kyle’s will to keep from looking back but he knew if he did he would falter and the monsters would catch him. He thought he could feel their warm sickly breath on the back of his neck as he pushed himself through the hole leading into the watch tower.
The beacon chamber was on the very top of the tower, it was reached by a twisting flight of cold stone steps. Even in the poor light that crept through the doorway, Kyle could see the dark stains which trailed through the door and up the stairway into the tower. Kyle ran up the stairs, his heart pounding in his chest, more from the fear of what he would find than from the exercise.
The door to the room at the top of the tower was lying open. Through the gap Kyle could see the room in disarray. The vat of oil kept to start the warning fires had tipped on its side. The liquid puddled around the access to the cupola where the beacon was housed. Kyle’s father was slouched in the puddle, the embroidered dragon on his front obscured by the blood that had soaked through his tunic. His father raised his hand up and gestured for Kyle to come to him.
Kyle slammed and bolted the door before he crossed the room. He knelt down beside his father, trying to avoid covering himself with the spilled oil, as he listened to his father’s shaky words.
‘ I’m so sorry, my son. I thought my father a fool; I didn’t listen when he told me of the myths and monsters. I dismissed him when he spoke of our destiny. I didn’t pass the stories onto you like he asked, if I had perhaps this day would never had come.’ he broke off as a fit of coughing wracked his body leaving a small red trickle of blood running down his chin. ‘ It is too late for me to tell you now all that I should have, but hopefully I can give you enough to survive this day’
Kyle wiped away the blood as he watched his father’s blue-grey eyes begin to dull. ‘ I don’t understand what you mean, father. I don’t know what it is you want me to do.’
Kyle’s father used the last of his strength to pull his son to him. He placed the old medallion he had always worn around his son’s neck and then whispered the words his own father had told him when he was just a lad. They were words he would have sworn he no longer remembered but they now returned to him bright and clear. Then with a kiss on the cheek he bid his son farewell.
Kyle knew he should cry for his father but he had used all his tears on Shanae. Instead he just sat dazed by the events that had occurred . It wasn’t until the Guin began to bang on the heavy wooden door that Kyle woke up enough to carry out his father’s final instructions. He climbed up into the cupola, placed the medallion over his heart and shouted out the odd words his father had whispered.
‘DOMINI DRACONUM VOCAT TE, ATTENDE.’
For a moment there was silence then a sound like thunder. An unnatural wind battered against Kyle, shaking him from his unstable perch. He plunged towards the ground. Far below he could see the Guins reaching their arms up towards him. Kyle was sure that this would be how he died, but suddenly, the Guins were swept away by a rolling wave of fire. Kyle felt his breath forced from his body as he crashed into a solid leathery surface. The searing heat that poured down on the Guins was comforting to Kyle. The movement of the giant wings felt so familiar. Kyle and the dragon were one. It was as if his dream had come true.
The boy stirred in his sleep, sometimes crying, sometimes shouting out loud. It had been four years since his family had been taken from him and his soul was still raw. If it had been within his power the dragon would have taken the bad memories from him and allowed him to sleep in peace. But he also knew doing that would weaken the boy. If he was ever to be strong enough to face the Guins, to rescue his sister and the others who were taken, he would need to work through his grief. He would need to learn from what had happened that day. The only thing the dragon could do was keep his body strong and nourished, while his mind healed. Soon the boy would be a man and when he woke once again they would fly.