Image: Katayama Yokuku
On the lake in Silene, the princess paced the pebbly shore, unsure of her direction.
The fog had swept in, hiding her father, and the noises of the jeering, fearing crowd were muffled, or perhaps they had escaped and left her to her fate. The ground was harsh against her bare feet – the gravel sharp-edged and not worn down…yet.
Much broken rock in the area.
She avoided the familiar dragon tracks formed from the beast pacing the shore, a towering serpentine menace at night, with bright glinting eyes that could peer into your own, if you lived high enough as she did. Now she was in its lair.
The water’s lapping had stilled. How long had it…? The pulsing familiar rhythm like a heartbeat had ceased. That meant…
Through the mist behind her, a boulder-like shape appeared in the fog, then extended its neck, and peered down, like an assassin bug on a helpless spider cowering in its web.
The sound of her own nickname shocked her, as though a voice in the dark, or a call of the wild had sounded it. “How-?”
“But of course,” rolled the eloquent voice, hiding a trim of brimstone. “I’ve been watching, I always have.”
So the times when she had inadvertently caught the dragon’s eyes from her tower weren’t the only ones. He had been peering that way, listening.
“Dear Puiss. Sweet Puiss.” The dragon’s colour was muted grey by the fog, casting his scales in an almost metal-green hue. His neck curved down with serpentine grace, eyes flashing red. Puissance started at the rows of curving teeth closed in a vice-like grip. The voice seemed to issue from its nostrils.
Curving and bobbing, he drew near, then far in the fog, the voice drifting in and out of focus.
“I’ve been waiting to meet you, tell me you are to meet me.” A four toed claw lifted from the water and crushed a decomposing skeleton. “Mandel-” the words just fell out of her mouth, as she recognised the shock of brown hair, and the place he had been left.
Having terrified her with his girth, and cruelty, he proceeded to peer very closely at her, aware of his effect. “Why do you fear me, child?” He curved and lay his head by her right leg, eyes upward like a dog. “Do I frighten you?”
“Yes.” Oh God, she had heard the beast toying with the past villagers, how long, how long? They had all shut their ears until the scream or silence ushered in a realisation worse than death.
She was unconsciously backing away, but the dragon had made sport of too many – she found herself bumping into his tail, hidden in the smoke, and he guffawed to hear her scream, the head on the gravel opening its upper jaw, and cackling with infernal glee, like a horrific puppet operated the wrong way. He sucked his teeth. After the terror had run its course, when this sweet dish of torture had ceased and her mind grown numb, the physical torment could begin.
If the dragon had lower lids he could raise in glee, he would have looked even more demonic.
Crawling from his position and lifting his head up high, he saw the terror had blanched her skin. Though behind the fear in her eyes, a spark of defiance remained. To die without giving up her dignity. The fear of losing it.
Oh he would indulge himself, keep her alive, see all the goodness driven from her, and eat her up like a dry snack.
All of a sudden, a musical sound was heard.
It drifted over the water from the far shore, a great distance beyond his island in the mist..
A clinking as of mail.
To be continued.
puissance, noun (archaic, literary): great power, influence, or prowess
More from Puissance, in the next chapter!