This is just a prologue to my first (and hopefully not last) novel about a girl called Eva who makes some startling discoveries surrounding her conscious and unconscious lives.
Chapter 1 – Prologue
Across the wide, gaping expanse of land, all she could see was arid desert. The volcanic sand, black and charred, was swirling just above the ground like smoke, pushed and thrown around by a sickly breeze. She lifted her feet a little, letting the black dust that had accumulated on her toes fall softly, then dance along the wind. She hated the feel of it.
She hated this entire place; everything she had known, everything she had been told of forced her to despise it. The deadness of it, the lack of life and movement, shook her to the core. She was too accustomed to colour and vivacity. Here there was very little colour; not even fiery red or moss green. There was only grey ash, scattered in slightly different shades into the shapes of trees, leafless and stark, or ghastly birds, soaring eerily and deathly above her. Here, she was out of her depth.
She stood, not liking being so far from any shelter. There was very little shelter to be had; no bushes, no canopies – even the stone ruins scattered on the horizon were far too decrepit and half-demolished to offer any kind of effective cover. Grimacing at the feel of the dead sand running between her toes, she dashed lightly to a small hillock, sliding nimbly down the slope to the other side. It offered the slightest protection from over head threats, at least.
Through the oppressive silence, she listened. The only noises to be heard were those that she made, lowering herself slowly to her knees in a pile of bracken. She bit her knuckle as the brambles nicked her legs, prompting a steady but sure stream of shimmering blood. The branches snapped under her weight, the noise echoing impossibly. She froze. Poised and tensed, like a deer waiting to flee, her senses raged.
Her eyes could see nothing but the same blank skyline as before. Her heart throbbed painfully in her chest, numbing her ears to everything but the frantic drumming inside of her. The stabbing nips in her legs turned to chills, the blood stopping momentarily as every muscle went rigid. The smell of stale, tomblike Air permeated her nostrils, stronger than it was before.
For immeasurable moments, she crouched in silence, waiting…waiting. Her heart began to slow, and she gradually regained control of her limbs, loosening them. Perhaps she had been lucky, this time. Perhaps he hadn’t heard –
And then, she felt it; a long, rasping breath of hot Air on her neck. They left a patch of reeking moisture, making her skin prick up as a chill leaked down her spine. More breaths rattled towards her, quickly and erratically – he was laughing. She closed her eyes, beating down the incredible urge to turn and slice his life from him in one fell move. Not today, she thought, there is more at stake.
“Did you really think you would slip through unseen?” A deep, husky voice rumbled forth, almost shaking the ground beneath her, “We know your kind are foolish, but please…this is just too easy.” He laughed again, sending waves of fetid breath over the crouched woman. He raised up, ready to strike her, unaware of how fast she was.
“Being seen isn’t my concern,” she swung herself backwards and around, until she stood against her opponent head-on.
She was faced with a monstrous construct of muscle and fur; all strength and anger. A long snout protruded from under a heavy brow, laced with fangs easily as large as the glistening scimitars she brandished in her hands. His huge, black body reared up onto two of his four legs, his gleaming claws on the front feet brushing the top of her head as they balled into tight, stony fists. His lips curled into a familiar lupine snarl, a low and penetrating roar seeming to burst from somewhere deep inside his chest. Dripping, waxen fangs were exposed in their entirety as the lip arched back; tonight, he was on the hunt – but she was not ready to be his prey.
“Just give me the child, Amarok,” the woman’s lilting voice lifted high above the guttural howls of the beast as she cut into him with her blades. Despite his seemingly impenetrable hide, the curved knives slivered easily into him, sending great gobs of gelatinous black blood onto the woman’s ivory robes, burning through them as though it were acid.
“You’ll never take her alive, whore! She is of me, and only half of you – we shall see which side she chooses!” He leapt forth, swatting at the woman with terrifying accuracy.
“You know she is of us! You know she will die! Do not feign love for her, beast! You extinguished all feelings of love, just as you extinguish that poor boy now!” The wolf grimaced in revulsion, and threw the woman against the side of the hillock.
“Poor boy? Poor boy?! You know nothing, wench! You know nothing of how we live! The babe is ours, and live or die, that way she shall stay!” The wolf stopped, half poised to kill, and paused. The silence, and the wait, was agony for the woman. Why had he stopped? Her question was answered as his ears flickered slightly to the left. His eyes, silver and menacing as night, widened as he tried to stop his reflex action to sound. He failed, and his eyes unwillingly trailed to the sound of soft wailing, less than half a mile away. He knew he had faltered, and exposed his huge claws once again, lusting for the taste of Dreamer blood.
The woman, however, had already seen his mistake. She dived between his monumental legs, drawing the blades across her own body and into the hulking muscle at the base of his knees. Amarok let forth a deafening scream, lunging forward onto all fours in an attempt to grasp at the ant-like woman in front of him. She dodged his groping paws and snapping maw, hurtling for the small cries ahead of her. She felt the ground shudder as he clawed at it with his two hand-like paws, kicking helplessly with his crippled hind legs. It was too late. The woman had already found the child; a dark-haired, bright-eyed girl whose face was pale and wan with the effort of staying alive in such a profoundly alien place.
The woman smiled, sheathing her blades. She stooped to pick up the child, letting the warm locks of copper hair fall softly over the baby’s face, “Iris.” She whispered, gently stroking Iris’ downy hair. Amarok roared in protest, his elongated mouth contorted in a pained scowl. He reached out towards the woman, who began to notice the claws retract, and the muscular bulks of wolf shrink away. She held the child closer, muffling her frightened cries, looking sorrowfully at the writhing, bawling mass in front of her, “I’m so sorry.” The woman’s face was dampened with tears as she turned away from her enemy, vanishing silently back to her home.
The dreamer awoke. She did not see the harsh, warm wind pick up the ash from the ground, lightly dusting a small, pale body in the midst of the desert. His body shook violently with wracking sobs, strong and distinctly human fists pounding the ground in anguish. The boy’s sandy hair fell over his eyes, which turned slowly from unseeing silver to aware, icy blue. Tears tracked defiantly down his cheeks, dragging away the last remaining strands of wiry black fur. He lay in the desert, naked and pained. There, he waited for Amarok to claim him again.