by Diane M. Graham
Open your heart and mind to the simplicity and complexity of a name.
I know only my name. Beyond that is confusion, a void where fantasy and reality swirl together. Fairies, Giants, Elves, Dwarves, ancient Keepers, and…Dragons?
A dark soul threatens the Five Kingdoms, but I am powerless to stand against it, overwhelmed by phantom memories, broken and lost.
Somehow, I must live. I must find my purpose. There are friends to love and battles to fight.
I know my name. Perhaps that is enough.
I am Ocilla.
This is my story.
Excerpt from Chapter 1
The darkness of my abyss consumes. Direction is irrelevant and time is worthless. If only I could pinpoint the moment when it all faded, maybe I would be able to crawl back into existence.
I slip in and out of reality. My heartbeat taunts me with hope for life, but the aches and emptiness pounding within the rest of my body only offer death.
I am Ocilla. That I know for sure.
As I sit in this prison, no other memory surfaces. No matter how hard I try, I cannot get past the barricade in my mind. The only sound is the drip, drip, dripping in the distance. The moisture leaks down the walls like tears unshed for too many years, finally escaping.
I am alone in this hell. They will come for me soon, and then I will be no more.
A few minutes, hours, or days later, footsteps echo far away. My lungs labor. My breath is kept shallowed by the splintered shards of my ribcage. Each intake of air is a reminder of my frailty. I hurt from head to toe, but I am separated from the pain by a thick haze.
Where am I? How did I come to this place? It is dark, damp and moldy. The cold seeps into my bones. My teeth chatter and my body shakes. The room in which I am imprisoned has a cavernous echo, and my pulse pounds rhythmically against the walls. Memories do not come.
The footsteps come closer, but all I can do is sit in a heap against the slimy interior of the chamber and wait. The fog of my mind thins. There is my heartbeat again. I am indeed alive. Water drops, footsteps and heartbeats play a syncopated tune. Plop! Smack! Smack! Thump! Thump! Plop! Smack! Smack! Thump! Thump!
Are they coming for me? I almost hope so. But who are they?
A flicker of light crosses under the door. My tired limbs move. I cannot stop them, even though my muscles rip with pain as I drag useless legs behind me. The door is a great wooden beast. Splinters pierce my fingers as I pull myself to sitting and rest my cheek on its grain. The smacking steps cease and heavy bolts scrape as they move. The metallic clatter vibrates my face like a growl.
The light. I want it. I need it. Something in my head connects light to comfort and safety. I claw to get to it. The skin splits and tears on my hands.
“Quiet!” A soft masculine whisper carries through the door.
A vise of fear grips everything inside of me and my hands drop. Evidence of recent brutality mars my flesh, and I push back to distance myself. Cold stone scrapes my bear flesh. Should I care that my captors see my body? They have, no doubt, seen me already.
The final bolt slides away and the heavy door swings in. Fresh air sweeps away the smell of death. Torchlight pierces my eyelids with a thousand needles, forcing them shut and my arms to cover my face. Shuffling feet approach. Someone squats next to me, and lovely heat pours from the torch. I brace for the blow I am sure will come. Gentle hands wrap under my body. I flinch with contact and wait for the pain, but none comes.
“Shh! I will not harm you, little one.” The man cradling me smells like wood, sap and sweat.
“We have to hurry, Ash,” says a raspy whisper full of command.
He hoists me from the ground like a child. He is as warm as the torch, and I cannot help snuggling myself closer. I want to wrap that warmth around me like a blanket, let the heat soak in and stay there forever. It may be a false sense of security and well-being, but it’s all I have.
I am rocked by Ash’s light strides. I can barely hear his feet on the rock, even though he carries my added weight. His father must be relatively close with his torch, for weaker heat radiates from somewhere ahead, and light filters through my eyelids.
Male voices echo in the distance, rising and falling in what sounds like drunken song. We climb steps and Ash’s muscles bunch as he moves upward. The brighter light filling this new area hurts too much so I squeeze my eyes tighter and turn my face into Ash’s chest. My breathing is unstrained now, as if the walls of my prison were the clasp on my lungs and his smell burns into me like a branding iron.
The voices sound close enough to touch. Ash’s steps slow and then come to a halt.
“There are too many to go by unseen,” Ash’s father says.
“We are running out of time.”
“I know. You stay here. I have this.”
A loud crash sounds ahead and the singing comes to an abrupt halt. Liquid splashes and metal skitters across the stone floor. The odor of fermented fruit wafts into my nostrils. Ash’s muscles tense and he curses under his breath, but I can hear it rumble his chest. He squats down. A large shadow blocks most of the glow through my eyelids.
“Are you ready?” Ash’s father says a short distance away.
“Ready for what?” someone slurs.
“To get out of my way,” Ash’s father answers.
“Hey! Aren’t you . . .” The voice strangles to silence. Others rise in alarm. Metal clashes, but not the same frail sound from before.
Ash curses again. “I’m going to set you here for just a minute, little one. I’ll be back to get you.”