This is the first chapter of a three-part story I wrote last Thanksgiving.
She lurked on the sidelines, watching from behind a ready shield as the hordes milled, their slavering growls bouncing off the thick log walls. They gorged themselves with raw meat and spilled red in sloshing puddles on the bowed plank floor. And she watched, waiting in tense silence, afraid to speak, afraid to breathe.
For many years she had lived in fear, and she had carried her shield. And she had waited for the day when the chains would fall off and freedom would reign.
She shifted slightly, and her ankle chains grated against the brick wall. Fear jolted through her like an electric pulse. She shuddered. The barbarians halted in mid-shuffle and swung their ponderous heads toward her, drool dripping from their slavering jaws. Their teeth, instead of being stained a dark, horrible scratched brown, were instead a sparkling white, gleaming and beautiful. Or they would have been beautiful if not for their long, curved sharpness. She knew those teeth would devour her if her chains rattled again. She trembled.
They stared unblinking, eyes a thunderous, ravaging red. Then, with hulking shoulders rolling, they thundered into their weird dance again. The steps she did not know. Nor was she likely to ever know. Once she had wanted to know how to dance their dances.
But that was before the chains.
Before the beautiful, graceful and strong creatures transformed, slowly, before her eyes, into horrendous creatures that she feared worse than death itself.
She silently cursed the chains.
If not for the chains, she would be dancing with them. And instead of the slavering growls and matted fur, they would have been white, pure and shining, with strength to protect instead of tear down, and instead of red eyes that sent terror winging through her, their eyes would have been warm and kind, inviting her to join them. And she would have. And danced as freely as a bird dancing in the sky.
Soaring and swooping like the wild falcon.
She leaned forward in her eagerness.
The chains tightened around her ankles, unwilling to release their deadly grip upon her. They controlled her, and fear rode her like one riding a wild horse, forcing it into submission. A tear slid from her eye and slipped down her cheek. She turned, and tramped away into the night. As she slogged through the driving rain and chilly mud, cold and miserable, she knew. She knew the chains, clanking around her ankles and restricting her step, would someday overcome her.
Until she could not walk at all. And then, how would she ever be free? How? How?