It began with a dream.
It was a dream unbidden in the mind of the child who dreamt it – a child who, even though her childhood was not the long-drawn-out affair we have the luxury of affording today, was not capable of understanding its portent in any conscious capacity, but whose timeless subconscious marked every crag, every careworn wrinkle of the dream. The nightmare.
It was, in fact, a nightmare such, had it been less portentous, as would have had the sufferer up and screaming, and the whole camp around tending the poor unfortunate who, by all accounts, would sound close to dying. Not that the child did not make every effort to awaken, but this nightmare had tentacles of serious import which kept her submerged in her slumbering state ‘til it had told her all it had to tell.
By and by, morning fell upon the encampment, and so did this Kraken of the girl’s deep sleep loose its grip on her, and finally she surfaced, screaming. And yes, the whole camp tended the girl who, by all accounts, sounded close to dying. Indeed, such hysterics had not been heard in living memory for, even in the lives of the oldest and wisest, naught had been known but peace, prosperity and bliss. Even amongst this warrior tribe, as the need for militia had receded, so had the warrior’s swords grown blunt through neglect. If there was fighting, it would usually be amongst young men, drunk on mead and machismo, who fought to the death for the right to feast on a leg of beef. The Gods were smiling on a people grown complacent on the seeds of plenty, and even the Druids of the tribe had had their wisdom blunted by it.
But the Gods knew. And the Gods knew the only way to get through to these people before they were annihilated was through innocence, through a child untroubled by the ways of unguarded pleasure. And although, yes, this child had known more than her share of pleasure, that she was still young enough meant that she was not corrupted by it. And the Gods knew – and the knowledge of the Gods passed into the child, whose now conscious mind saw only a horror it could not understand.
“Summon the Chief Druid!” The order was being barked by the child’s mother, a small, thin woman of not quite thirty who looked ordinary enough in her simple cowled night-robe. That she had the power to summon the Chief Druid who, as was his practice, engaged in not-quite-full-hearted ritual at that hour of the morning, spoke fully of her status, and so the Druid came.
“Madam, you summoned me?”
“The child, Dynedd, the child!”
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