Dragon’s Mystery: An Excerpt

The bard had gone that day and Silmavalien lay in her bed, shifting uneasily. A squeak pierced the night. She tensed.

Then there was silence, and Silmavalien could hear the beating of her own heart and the rhythm of her breath. For some reason, possibly due to her own tenseness, she found it extremely irritating. For a long time she waited, lying on her elbow, consciously controlling her breathing.

The shrill squeak pierced the night again, this time higher and clearer than before. It rang in Silmavalien’s ears and she found it intensely irritating and a little painful besides. It made her want to squirm. It resembled the screech of unoiled steel scraping past unoiled steel. It continued on until it passed from her hearing.

Silmavalien’s heart beat frantically. She was excited but not afraid and she felt weak, weak as she had never felt before, and yet, for some reason, she felt as if she had always been this weak. Totally confused she sank back into the straw mattress and sought sleep.

Overpowering desire startled her back into alertness. Something she had secretly desired all her life was so close. It was as if an essential part of her that was yet indescribably more and other than herself was about to touch her, or else was within her reach. A new weakness, that was yet present from her first, least articulate memories, held her back, stood in her way. Held by such desire, yet in the midst of such weakness, she felt helpless and desperate. Just beyond her lay all the meaning of her life, all her heart’s desire, and yet she had no strength to reach it, to stretch out her hand and touch it.

Her voice soft and strained, Silmavalien sang:

All I desire is with you to be

Yet I am without any power

To reach out, I to you, you to me

Desperate and helpless, call out to the Higher

All then perfected, outside and the Inner

Silmavalien sat up in her bed, rocking restlessly. She felt like all her life her heart had been a still, quiet valley in which dwelt a few silent forms of life endlessly seeking something wider and more. Now, all that was gone in a chaotic whirlstorm of confusion and emotion. Would it shatter the walls enclosing, and sheltering, the little valley of her heart? Would it shatter the valley itself? When it was gone, would enemies pour through the broken walls and lay waste all that she was or desired? Or would it let in the Higher, to totally transform and fill her?

Wrestling with her emotions and fears, a soft thump on the floor behind her startled Silmavalien. She twisted around and first beheld the white light of the silver moon streaming through her window and flooding her room with pale and colorless yet strangely beautiful soft and white luminescence. At first all in her room seemed to be just as she had left it.

Then, Silmavalien saw that her shiny white oval had fallen to the floor. Then she saw it, just a few feet away from her, shinning softly in the moonlight and riddled with a webbed network of thin, inky black lines.

Cold, icy fear surged through Silmavalien. Even her heart seemed to stop beating. She did not think. She did not move. She did not hope or guess. She waited, yet with neither patience nor impatience. Fear annihilated all else.

Then, the shiny white oval split, revealing its true nature.

A few feet away from Silmavalien, on the clay floor, sprawled what could only be a dragon. A long, thick, clumsy tail uncurled itself on her floor. A thin neck, but nonetheless short against both the body and the head, supported a large, awkward shaped, rough and squarish-triangular head. Large, bulging eyes glowed a dim minty color and whirled slowly. A spiny ridge ran down from the forehead to the nose, where wide nostrils flared revealing molten depths which seemed almost to glow with dark red slumbering flame.

The dragon splayed four stumpy legs out around its body and looked too thick and clumsy to properly walk on them. The claws were a pale color, faintly transparent. Rather too small, much-crinkled, crudely shaped wings were splayed around the contrastingly lithe body. Everywhere the skin shone white in the pale moonlight.

Though Silmavalien thought that the dragon was despicably ugly and even repugnant to look at, she felt a certain strange thrill of excitement as its birth. She felt strangely affectionate and drawn to it as, overpowered by its hunger, it twisted around and began to eat its egg-shell. She felt its hunger and helplessness in herself. Despite its ugliness, the dragon fascinated her.

When the dragon had finished its egg-shell it twisted back around and creeled mournfully. The plea touched Silmavalien’s heart. She recognized it! She knew it, from the very bottom. All fear and reluctance suddenly gone she reached out and touched the dragon.

The instant her fingers touched the dragon’s skin icy fire coursed through that contact into Silmavalien’s blood, bringing with it both burning, excruciating pain and a strong sense of pleasure, which, mingling into each other, made the whole sensation even more unbearable. The dragon screamed a piercing screech which hurt her ears.

Silmavalien tried to draw back from the contact, but found herself unable. She had touched a dragon hatchling and already their hearts and souls were uniting, becoming one. Their minds were linked. Neither of them could do anything to that anymore than Silmavalien could revoke the fact that she had, of her own conscious will, touched. Her heart was already melting and breaking so that it could truly bond to the dragon’s. Perhaps that is why dragons are born so ugly; an attraction to something based in anyway whatsoever upon beauty cannot serve as a foundation for such a bond.

Slowly the pain melted away. Silmavalien lay beside the dragon, conscious of his name though she could not remember learning it. Minth. Unbearable ecstasy of joy, excitement, and wonder flooded her being. She drew Minth into the mattress with her and kissed his ugly head. Joy and love surged through her.

Silmavalien’s eyes fell on the dragon and she loved him. The beat of her heart harmonized with his. The rhythm of her breath merged with that of his. Their whole bodies vibrated with the same force and energy as they stared into one another’s very different eyes, the one having dark brown irises and black pupils, the other a dim, pale minty glow. They were so different and yet they were so close and the differences served not to separate them but to draw them closer together. It was wonderful, impossible, totally new.

Silmavalien smiled and drew Minth close to her breast. She kissed him on the nose and stroked the smooth skin on his neck and shoulder. The unbearable, inexplicable, unbelievably wonderful had happened to her. She was freed and bound. She had been born with Minth, but she still felt quite confused. Perhaps, indeed, it was now that Silmavalien felt more confused than ever. A dragon. The dragon. Minth himself was with her. She loved him. She wanted him. She wanted to be with him. She wanted things she knew she had never wanted before, but what it was she wanted she did not know. She had been instantaneously thrust into the wide new world of the undiscovered and the unexperienced and of another being’s emotions, experiences, and personality.

One thing Silmavalien did know. She and Minth were indissolubly bound together. Bound by love, bound by joy, and bound by desire. Their very lives, too, were joined. She felt his breath and his heart beat in her even as her heart beat in him. Without putting into words or knowing how she understood that they were already bound by a bond stronger than fear or death.

Acceptance, love, gladness, and quiet marvel filled her heart. This was the foundation on which all truly wholesome bonds are set. The fear, the terror, and the panic of just a few moments before seemed to have no place at all in the whole world and all the worlds. Indeed, it was very nearly forgotten in the love and goodness of their bond.

In time Silmavalien sank into a soft doze, not really all that akin to sleep, as she lay about Minth. Desires and images such as she had never known before and can hardly be described flooded her dream-consciousness. New emotion and new being flooded her mind. Here I will do my best to translate the song that she heard in that dream, the song that told of and was told in the language of this new world which was opening upon Silmavalien. Others may be able to do better; here is my best:

Swift and fiery, wind immortal,

Running beyond all mortal sight,

Now made one, undying in unity eternal

Beyond the everlasting fire and light.

Before the worlds were born

This was and is a world of its own;

Only those to love forsworn

Know this world to which no eagle has flown.

Now see and behold, lo!

This world more deep than eyes may see.

Come and find what no mind may know

Where all may dwell and as one be.

The streams here are pure and clear.

The winds are born with a flame living.

Never can one come to the end of me here.

There is fulfillment and yet no end to the seeking.

Come and find all your desire

To be made one ever closer.

Soar on winds of fire,

Fly beyond all you ever were.

This is where your heart can learn to fly;

These are the lands of true flight

Where there is no end or limit of beauty and sky

And you can race flame, soar on light.

This where you may run

As fleet as deer;

This where you will soar to the sun

Find there is no fear.

Swim through the rivers,

Ride upon the crest of the waves of the sea.

The winds here are stronger

Than all you can ever be.

Yet there is no harm;

Even pain will be life in love.

Find only peaceful charm,

Join the joy of all winged life above.

Do what you cannot do.

Race the wind swifter than you.

Find her in your heart, too

In strangest ways all your desires come true.

So the song went on, telling of and told by that world where everything is stronger than oneself and yet nothing is impossible, the world of fiery winds and tides and rivers and healing and the joy of love incarnate. Silmavalien did not understand the half of what she heard, but she knew that she and Minth were together in a way that more real and intimate that she had ever imagined. She knew her life was changed forever. She no longer was, and yet she was just beginning to be.

“I love you, Minth.”

Excerpted from DragonBirth, Copyright © 2014 by Raina Nightingale




Awakened: An Excerpt

Cassian Shearin Muireal was a slender girl of nine years old. She had soft, thin, blond hair and hazel eyes. She was generally energetic and aware of her surroundings, but there was nothing particularly unusual or spectacular about her or her three-years-older sister, Amrath Shearin Muireal. Amrath was built about average. She had dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and was less energetic than her younger sister. They often played with a boy who was ten, also built rather average, having dark eyes, black hair, and skin the color of an almond. His name was Norden Jaryle Palece, but he was called Jaryle.

One early summer afternoon the trio was playing on a hillside overlooking a little village. “I’d like to go look in that cave!” said Cassian, pointing to a hole in a little precipice above them.

“Okay,” said Amrath, looking up from her pile of assorted leaves.

“There probably aren’t any baby goats in there,” said Jaryle. “There might be snake babies.”

“Nonsense,” declared Amrath. “Fall is the time for baby snakes– there might be unhatched snake eggs. Ooh! That would be gross.”

“There might be dragon eggs!” said Cassian, her face lit up.

“Probably not,” said Amrath, in a tone of voice that meant, “That’s ridiculous.”

“Well, are we going?” said Cassian, looking around at her sister and friend. Amrath was still half-sitting half-laying in the grass, and Jaryle was arranging sticks and rocks for a play castle.

“Sure,” said Amrath, getting to her feet rather slowly.

Jaryle jumped up.

Two minutes later, Cassian was leading the older ones into a dark space, half-hole, half-tunnel, and half-cavern. A little before it was totally dark, Jaryle almost bumped into something. “Hey! What’s this?” he exclaimed. “Cassy! Amrath!” Before the two girls could get to his side, he had put his hand on the object. “I think it feels scaly.”

“You think?” asked Amrath skeptically. She put her hands on her hips and examined the roughly egg-shaped object. It was hard to see very well in this lighting. She certainly did not want to touch it.

Cassian reached out her hand. “It has a pulse.”

“A what?” asked Amrath.

Jaryle drew back his hand. “What, Cassy? You can’t touch it?”

“I’m not touching it?” Cassian sounded puzzled.

“No, you’re not,” said Amrath, taking a closer look. The way her younger sister was leaning, the position of her hand and arm, it sure looked like Cassian was touching something, only the mysterious object was about two inches beneath her hand.

Jaryle touched it again, this time sliding his hand underneath Cassian’s. Amrath observed, “I think it might be red, but it’s too dark in here to be too sure.”

“I’m not touching it!” exclaimed Cassian. She removed her hand, and stepped back. Quickly, she wheeled around and lightly ran out.

Amrath started following at a much more sedate pace. Jaryle called after Cassian, “What are you doing?”

“Just getting a stick.” Cassian did not bother looking over her shoulder, and it took the two older ones a moment to realize what she had just said.

“What on earth would she want with a stick?” Amrath muttered to herself.

A few moments later, Cassian returned with her stick. She thrust it in at the object, and it slid across it, for some reason making no noise at all. As quick as lightning, she slid her hand along the stick, in past where she had been resisted a mere half-minute ago, and touched the object with the tips of her fingers.

The children could never quite figure out what happened next. Jaryle said that the instant Cassian touched the object– he had already begun to think of it as an egg of some sort– it was gone, but he never could recall if there was something within it– rather, where it had been– or if so, what. The very next moment something equally strange and hardly even knowable happened. There was a flash, a blast, an explosion. However, exactly what it was, none of the children knew. Cassian said it was something like light, only she did not just see it with her eyes, she saw it with her whole body. Not only did she see it with her whole body, she saw it directly with her brain. Amrath was not sure if she had seen it with her eyes at all, but she did say that she perceived it in a way that was ‘like seeing’.

At any rate, that flash, that explosion, of something that was like light, hurled them all away from the apparent source, and flung them on the ground, flat on their backs.

For several millennia, Camri had ‘slept’ in a state of conscious oblivion, her presence feeding and growing off of the energy fields that are strung through the universe, like webs and liquids, emanating from, permeating, and passing through all that is, as well as interacting with each other in ways too complex and secret for any human– or even dragon– to comprehend. Now, for the first time in her multi-millennium-long half-existence, Camri was aware of something other than oblivion: a mind, resembling her own in a way that no interaction of the energy fields did– a mind far freer than her own.

Then, something– or someone– pierced the shield, pierced the imprisonment and freedom from the definitiveness and reality of the actual world. It was sheer torment– for a moment, a flash, an instant. It was as though she were being burned into existence, exploded into reality, chained into freedom. It was one instant of awful torture, intolerable, unbearable; it felt as though it would annihilate her– in a sense it was, in fact, doing so– and yet it was defining her, making her, giving her life. For the first time in countless millennia, Camri was living, and so, for the first time, she was dying.

Then, the awful shock was over, and Camri stood, in a sort of imprisonment in reality, for the first time aware, and for the first time confined in her awareness. For the first time capable, and for the first time limited in her capabilities. For the first time alive, and for the first time dying.

As far as the children could tell, a strange creature, female, though none of the children knew how they could tell, stood where the egg had been. She seemed hardly part of this world. Somehow, Cassian knew her name– Camri. Wings spread out from her shoulders, and seemed almost to fill the cavern, only they hardly seemed to be real, at any rate in the same sense as the rock was real. Cassian put it this way, “Her wings were really there, all right. They were only a different there. It wasn’t so much that they were there in a different way than the rocks were, or that we were. They were a different there.” Jaryle said that he could make nothing of that, but then again neither could he make anything of the experience itself. Amrath said she did not really understood what Cassian was saying, but it sounded right, in a way. “Cassian’s right in the same way that the wings were real, and she’s wrong in the same way that the wings weren’t real. The whole thing was rather like two different worlds, too different kinds of worlds, meeting, touching, merging.”

The color of the wings was another thing that could never really be figured out. Jaryle said they were see-through, sort of like glass, and yet different. “One can see glass, at least around the edges. Even the edges of these wings could not be seen. Everything looks somehow, barely different, through glass, whereas what was on the other side of the wings looked exactly the same as that which had no wings between it and my eyes. And yet… and yet… I saw the wings.” Cassian claimed they were no color and every color, and said she had no memory whatsoever of whether she could– or could not– see what was on the other side of the wings from her. Amrath claimed the wings were a color that had never been seen before– perhaps no human eye could see their color– and yet familiar. She had seen it before, but not with her eyes, and she could remember it, but there was no name for it. It had a silvery sheen, but that was about all she could tell about it. “There are colors we can’t see, but sometimes we can sense them– in music, or in fragrances, for example. As a result, we can occasionally recognize them. It was one of those.”

The woman was very tall, but, here again, there was something strange going on. The children could hardly be certain whether she was six and a half feet tall, or a hundred feet tall. Amrath had the clearest idea on this. “Her height was about seven and a half feet, but she was taller than we could tell.” Cassian said she had not paid any attention to that; she was taller than they were, she was imposing, and it could not have mattered less exactly how tall she was. An energy pulse radiated from her, that Cassian, alone, felt very strongly, but of which Amrath says that she felt “a dim awareness.” There was something scaly about her form.

In a voice that seemed to resonate through the cavern, and yet did not echo, was strong as the ocean tides, and yet as cold as ice, Camri spoke. The children could never decide whether they heard it with their ears or with their minds, but one thing was sure: it did not exactly have words, in the normal sense. None of them could resist it. Madly, they fled, knowing not why, nor even from what.

Minutes later, stitches in their sides, for they had all run as fast as they knew how, the three collapsed on the bank of the stream that ran by the village of which their families were part. As soon as she had enough breath to speak Cassian said, “What was that creature? I feel almost as though I know her, but I did not recognize her at all. Somehow, I feel like I met her. Just now.”

Amrath nodded. “I don’t know what you mean about knowing her, or meeting her, but it was all very strange. Like there’s some twist in reality, or in the nature of things. Some strange, new dimension. Wizardry, I would say, though I know precious little of it.”

Jaryle just shook his head. “I don’t like it at all. I’m not sure what it was, or even if it WAS, but I do know it isn’t real in the normal sense, and I think we should tell our parents that something is not right around here– particularly in that cave.”

Amrath nodded. “Might not be a bad idea.”

Cassian was staring off into the distance, at nothing in particular. “I just feel like I know her, now. She needs someone,” she said, to no one in particular.

“She is evil,” said Amrath. “You should not get involved with her.”

Cassian said nothing in reply. After resting a few minutes, they got up and walked to the village.

Excerpted from Knights of the Promise, Copyright © 2017 by Raina Nightingale



knights of the promise