Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 170

had splintered in his rage. No one seemed to notice the little girl moving slowly toward the pallet on the floor, her chest heaving as her breathing became faster until she was gasping for air. Rhiannon stopped and looked down at the still form on the pallet. The bodice of her mother’s yellow gown that she had worn at the tournament was now stained the same color as her hair; glittering gouts of her life’s blood covered her neck and shoulders, ran rivulets down her outstretched arm, pooled into the cracks in the stone floor. The traitor’s arrow had pierced through her throat. Rhiannon looked at her mother’s face and was seized with horror: wax-white, like a candle, hazel eyes dulled, lips parted with unformed words. Never again would her mother see her or speak to her. Shaking and struggling with her breath as her mother did in her last moments, Rhiannon’s vision started to spiral down into murkiness as she reached out to the lifeless form, when a strong hand took hers and pulled her slightly away from the body. Sir Gwydion looked down at her, his anguished face and dented armor splashed with mud and blood. “Come away, child. It is ill-done. Stop. Breathe.” His other hand engulfed the side of her neck, his thumb on her jaw to make sure she looked into his eyes and not at the body again. “Do not look upon her like that. Your mother is elsewhere now. Come away, your father needs you.” At that moment her father looked up and saw her, and stretched out his arms to her, his face tracked with tears. She ran to him without looking back at the knight or the blood-stained pallet. Rhiannon nodded, and then looked closely at the cloth he had given her. “Oh!” she exclaimed shakily. “This was mine!” She held up the red scarf with crooked gold stitches forming a sleeping dragon in the middle. “This was one of my first embroidery attempts.” She looked up, smiling incredulously although her eyes still shone from her tears. “I gave you this at one of the tournaments… and you’ve kept it all these years?” “Ah… ” he grinned a little sheepishly, “I liked it.” Rhiannon laughed, pleased, and traced the uneven stitches on the dragon’s folded wings. Gwydion quickly handed her a cloth to catch her tears with. His brow furrowed in concern. “I did not mean to make you upset with memories. Of course your father’s liege knights were intent on capturing Maelogan and the rest of his lackeys. I myself almost had him in the lists but ran afoul of the mud. His treachery was… most unexpected.” “Of course they can,” Rhiannon chided the knight, who was slowly shaking his head in disbelief. “They are marvelous creatures of wisdom and wit. This book not only contains the runes of their language but also their stories, beliefs, and history. It is the Dragon Tome, and the only one of its kind. If it is lost, then so is all their knowledge lost to people. I am its keeper, as was my mother before me, and my grandmother, “Rhiannon,” the knight hesitated, and gestured at the ruins around them. “Why are we here? And why is your book,” he pointed at the pack next to her, “so important?” Her lips twitched but she kept herself steady, not wanting to reveal the slight measure of triumph she felt from his questioning. Another step ahead, she thought, and her palms gave a tingling pulse as she pulled her book out from its pouch onto her lap. “This is a book of secrets that my mother bequeathed to me as my birthright.” She spread the red cloth out onto the grass before her and the stitched dragon caught the strong light of the western sun. “Gules, a dragon dormant Or. Our family’s coat of arms is actually passed through the female line.” She arched an eyebrow at Sir Gwydion’s dumbfounded expression. “Don’t tell my father that I told you that. That’s one secret,” she said slyly. “You know there have Remembering how it was Sir Gwydion who rescued been dragons sighted on our lands for centuries. This her sanity from the wreck of her mother’s body on that book,” she said, as she ran her palms along the leather, dire day, Rhiannon whispered, “You were the only one “deciphers the language of the dragons.” who recognized a daughter’s grief. You helped me; I remember now. Thank you.” Sorrow spilled from her “Dragons can… ” he cleared his throat, “they can eyes. speak?” PAGE 169