|Image from a Google search|
Suggested by: Andy Poole
Place: the Palatinate
Object: a locket miniature
A forest in the Palatinate region of Germany...
"Faster! Faster! Schnell!" She urged the driver on. "Stupid fetteschweine! the moon will be gone by the time we get there!"
The carriage bounced to a halt at last, and the footman ran to assist her even as she was in the mind to leap out of the door herself. The clearing certainly looked wide enough, and the white rock still stood in the grass. She seated herself on this and opened the satchel she had brought with her. She withdrew the scroll she had packed, and—reverently—the featherless quill made of metal that never needed to be replenished. Her entire body tingled at what she was attempting to do. She began to write.
"The Midnight Dragon awoke as dawn spread over the land. The night was over, and a new day had finally begun. His whip-like tail shifted off his back as his powerful legs flexed. His wings unfolded from his sides as he stretched out his neck the size of a tree trunk. The midnight blue of his scales glittered like a sky full of stars in the firelight. He swung his mighty head as big as that of an elephant, and a plume of fire lit up the night sky as the Dragon burst through the fabric between the worlds and landed in the strange forest."
Her servants cried out, and she looked up just as a fireball exploded over the treetops. When she returned her gaze to the clearing, He was there. He was every bit as big as she had written, and when he had lit a ring of trees around the two of them on fire to separate her from her servants, she saw that his midnight-blue scales really did sparkle like the night sky.
"Ecrivaine," rumbled the dragon, "why have you summoned me from my world?"
She bowed low in the utmost respect. "Oh Great Dragon, my name is Lady Magdalena, of the court of the Winter King."
The Dragon bent his great head closer. "What care have I for the Kings of men? Why have you taken upon yourself the power of the Ecrivaine to bind me to your word?"
Magdalena showed him the map she had drawn. "The nations are at war, Great Dragon. There seems to be no other way to end it."
"Than by invoking powers you know naught of?" The Dragon threw back his head and roared. "The Dragon King does not mete vengeance on another's world. I will not be attached to your cause. Let the armies of men resolve their own differences!"
"Please!" Magdalena begged. "If this war continues any longer, it will only mean more death and bloodshed."
"So you would have me accomplish in a single night the work of a thousand battlefields?" The Dragon asked. "I do not yet know this world of yours, Ecrivaine, but perhaps as I visit other times and places, I will discern what justice I will serve."
A horn blast rent the air. Magdalena noticed only then that the ring of fire had burned out, leaving her exposed.
"Drag—" she turned back to him, but the creature had vanished. The Austrian army would be there at any moment. Magdalena slipped the materials back in the satchel and tucked it behind the rock as the hounds bounded through the charred trees and surrounded her.
Two dozen men soon followed, grinning evilly at her. The generalissimo forced the dogs to heel and faced the young woman.
"This reminds me of a story I once heard in a French village," he leered at her. "A tender young maiden ventures into the woods alone."
"I have heard it, Wallenstein," replied Magdalena. "She encounters a savage beast."
Generalissimo Albrecht von Wallenstein smiled. "Of course the beast means her no harm; he only wants to know what a little girl like herself is doing in such a great, dark forest."
Magdalena's heart sank. "It matters not anymore. What I set out to do, I have failed."
Wallenstein turned to his men. "She will make a fine prize for His Excellency, the Emperor. Seize her!"
Before any man could move, a deafening roar split the air and a massive, dark shape hurtled out of the sky. Those far enough outside the strike zone could not believe what they saw.
"Dragon!" The men shrieked.
The creature landed between Wallenstein and Magdalena and the rest of the army. They attacked it with pike staffs and long spears while it blew tongues of fire from its mouth and burned them where they stood.
Wallenstein attempted to drag Magdalena off by her hair behind the Dragon's back, and she screamed.
The dragon turned to her just as a spear entered its side. It roared in pain, and the flexing tail slammed into Wallenstein, sending him tumbling. A blast of fire consumed the rest of the squadron, and when the smoke cleared, the dragon was gone as well.
Magdalena groaned. Wallenstein's fall had wounded her leg and threw her to the ground. She would be dead soon if she was not caught by reinforcements sure to come. Slowly, she pulled herself over to the white rock. Digging into her satchel, she pulled out the pen and parchment. Every movement was burning pain, but she kept writing until it was done.
Wallenstein revived to find himself surrounded by the rest of his army.
"Generalissimo," the captain saluted him as cadets helped him to his feet. "You said you were hunting someone that could change the tide of battle." He gestured to the clearing, now about twice as large as it was before. "What happened?"
The memory came rushing back to him, and Wallenstein stumbled madly around the scene.
"Where is she?" He screamed hoarsely. "Surely she survived, if her body is not here; where did she go?"
Wallenstein saw the glint of metal on the ground next to a roll of parchment and a blackened satchel. He picked up the object: a simple gold locket.
"She would have changed the tide of battle," he choked.
The captain supported his shoulder as his knees buckled. "Never mind; let us find a leech who can tend to your wounds, and you will feel more like yourself when you have recovered."
Later, as the generalissimo slept, the captain inspected the locket he had retrieved. Inside was a strikingly lifelike cameo of a young woman. She stared at him with marble eyes of such depth, the captain slammed the locket shut and swore to himself never to look upon it again.
By the time Wallenstein recovered, he had no memory of the mysterious incident in the forest. The papers and the locket were shipped from place to place for several centuries, until the locket ended up at an antiques shop in France, where it caught the eye of a man named Hugo.
"Ahh," said Hans, the shopkeeper, "that is the locket claimed from the site of an unknown battle during the first part of the Thirty Years War. They say the woman depicted in it could write things and they would come true--but she vanished on the very same day of the battle no one knows about." He glanced up at Hugo. "Are you a collector?"
Hugo shook his head. "Not really. It will be a gift for my niece, who is coming to visit."
"Shall I wrap it for you, then?" Hans offered amiably.
Hugo nodded. "That would be great, thanks."
Hans placed the locket in a box and attached a note to the top. "What is her name?"
"Faith," Hugo answered, and Hans inscribed it on the card.
Hugo paid for the trinket and tucked it in his pocket. Faith liked antiques; she was going to love this locket...
Inside the locket, the cameo of Magdalena—the first Ecrivaine—stirred once, then became still.
And so it began...
Next Part >>>>>
Next Part >>>>>