Object: A flickering candle
The frigid snow crunched underfoot, the only sound in the dark stillness. Clouds hung heavy in the sky, dropping tender white flakes of ice to join their kind on the ground below. The winter gusts bit even through her heavy black bearskin cape, but she did not acknowledge it. In her right hand she bore a festive evergreen wreath, woven with a black satin bow. In her left, a tall candle burning brightly in the cold grey elements. The soft echoes of carolers in the city reached her ears, but the music did not reach her heart.
She trudged to the door of the ancient mausoleum. The latch was still bright from the last time it had been opened, one year previous. She left the wreath hanging upon the door, and moved inside, shining her candle upon the two fresh crypts there: Ewan and Berenice Thorne, perished within a year of each other—the most recent being her father, having fallen at the Battle of Alton a year prior. It would be her first Christmas alone. She placed the candle on the stand and knelt before the graves.
The candle flickered, but it was a warm wind that blew.
She raised her head as the voice resounded from the palpable gloom beyond the light of the candle.
"How dost thou fare?" She asked the shadows.
A broad, scaly head bent into view. The deep-blue scales blended into the darkness, while a glinting golden sheen gave the illusion of a night sky at the back of the mausoleum.
"I am well," replied the dragon.
Cailleach gently touched the warm snout when the dragon bent its head toward her.
The Thorne family had been guardians of the Midnight Dragon ever since Arglwydd Thorne, her great-grandfather, had discovered him trapped in a crater where he had apparently arrived in this world from wherever his origins, wounded by an even more fearsome predator. Arglwydd had nursed him back to health and given him a home in the family's spacious mausoleum, where the dragon maintained vigil over the dead while remaining out of sight of other humans. Every generation, when the child came of age, was presented to the Midnight Dragon, and admonished to both keep the family secret and visit the dragon once a year, on the anniversary of the most recent death.
This visit, however, was not like other visits. Cailleach Thorne had been summoned.
"What is thy bidding?" She asked as the Midnight Dragon flexed his mighty legs. The tips of his wings scraped along the stone floor.
The Dragon raised his head and sniffed the air. "There are stirrings in the threads of time, Aeres Thorne. I have summoned you to tell you I must leave."
Cailleach dared look upon the magnificent dragon, such was her surprise. "Wherefore?" She gasped.
"The Ecrivaine is coming," whispered he. "'Twas an ancient spell that brought me here, and only the word of the Ecrivaine can send me back, in the right place and manner."
Cailleach trembled from head to toe. What if something were to happen to him? "Whither shalt thou go?"
"I go North," said the dragon. "There are High Lands there, where I shall meet the Ecrivaine. Fare thee well, Arglwyddes Thorne. Thou hast borne thy duty well."
The Midnight Dragon spread his wings, and seemed to envelop Cailleach in the night sky. The darkness cleared, and he was gone. Cailleach left the candle burning bright in the darkness of the vacant mausoleum, till an errant gust of wind snuffed it.