Dani was with the Davidson children, all of them dressed regally if somewhat uncomfortably, sitting under a grand silken tent, served drink and treats by elven servants, while the Queen of Direhaven, Janellize, sat in front of them next to the golden dragon Shay, the two of them marvelously displayed against the backdrop of a magnificent waterfall.
It was mid-afternoon, and Janellize had just begun her tale of the shared history of her people and the dragons, one fraught with conflict and distrust. But who was at fault and why now was the enmity set aside?
“For time out of mind, we whom you call Elves and the race of dragons have visited your world, but neither are what you imagine us to be from your legends.
“Only in certain lands on your world were we called Elves. In other languages, we have been referred to as fairies, gnomes, and dwarves. In centuries past, an ancient Christian prayer book used the term elf as synonymous with Satan, though other nations of that time, considered some of our people light while others dark in nature. We have also been considered rbhus, hobgoblins, nymphs, demons, and angels.
“Our people have been all of these and none of them, for in truth, we were never truly realized by humans. In fact, just as your world contains differing cultures and individuals with varying characters, so too do we, and thereby hangs our tale.
“You see there was a war brewing, and as you can imagine, some of our kingdoms and clans were for it while others were opposed.”
“A war. You mean with people?” To everyone else, this was a highly formal occasion, one in which you listened but did not speak. But to five-year-old Zooey, the mouse Sapplehenning now accustomed to the dragon’s presence enough to curl up on her lap, it was almost like when Mom or Dad read her a story.
Mandy glared at the littlest Davidson, but while Zooey noticed, she ignored her older sister.
“No, my child. Not with humans, but with dragons.”
“Dragons?” Mandy hadn’t meant to cry out at the shock, especially after just chastising her sister for speaking out of turn.
Shay sighed and then spoke. “Yes, my children. You see some of Mistress Janellize’s people and some of our dragon folk had been corrupted in your world. You have legends of both the Elves and dragons because we each strayed from our homelands to visit yours. This was a mistake for both of our kinds and one for which we paid a terrible price.”
Mandy leaned over toward Dani and whispered, “Did you know about this?”
“I know about the war but not how the Elves of Direhaven came to be in the Dark Hills on this world of exile.”
“Many of our communities are devoted to mischievousness and malevolence, but some, such as the folk of Direhaven, endeavored to bring good fortune to the people we encountered, though we tried to keep our existence hidden.”
“It was similar with we dragons, but our purpose was greater. We were the guardians of order in existence, maintaining balance between the opposing forces in the universe, light vs. darkness, matter vs. antimatter, even good vs. evil. Had all of us remained devoted to our duty, what you think of as real life might have been very different.”
“Indeed,” the Queen continued. “A few of our race entered your world out of curiosity. We had no such noble purpose as the dragons, yet we were the keepers of a lesser magic, a way to change the natural order of things outside of the laws that bind reality. However, once news of your realm spread, a good many of us visited and then decided to stay on your Earth. We did so throughout the long ages, giving rise to many legends and tales of us, most of them fanciful and altogether inaccurate.”
“While we dragons are also curious, we were forbidden to visit your world or any other, lest we be influenced and thus become biased and unable to maintain the balance of all things.”
“What happened?” Mandy looked over at Paris but decided not to say anything. It didn’t seem to bother either Janellize or Shay when one of them interrupted. However, the pause did give her a chance to notice that more and more elves were gathering to listen, not just the nobles, but the commoners from the towns and villages surrounding the castle.
“As with the elves, a few of the younger and more rebellious dragons made the crossing from our realm to yours. They attempted to conceal their presence, but such a thing is not always easy for us. We visited many parts of your world which is why there are legends of dragons in the land you call England, but also in other parts of Europe, the ancient Near East, and in Asia. In some cases, the descriptions of our appearance are fairly accurate since, as with humans and elves, we have many different families, clans, and tribes.”
“So that’s why you look like a Chinese dragon, only you have wings.”
“Yes, Paris. You have observed correctly. However, we must continue relating our tale.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” The nine-year-old almost whispered, embarrassed at even this slight chiding.
“It was small wonder that eventually one of my kind would meet with one of the elven folk, as did my kin Chervot with the elf Lashu. The both of them had spent many ages in the human world, learning your ways, your customs, and most importantly, your passions. The imbalance in Chervot, which he carried to his clan and eventually to his tribe, was great.
“You dragons and your dreary little caves, Chervot. Why can we not meet in a pleasant, sunny glade, or atop a snow capped mountain peak.”
“Because this is a secret meeting, you fool, and this cave is not so little since it comfortably houses my bulk.”
“Yes, I’ve been meaning to mention that you’re putting on weight. Lunching on more than your fair share of maidens, along with the knights come to rescue them?”
“Those are myths and that’s not why I’ve called you here.”
“Yes, I know. You have an answer for me then, something sanctioned by your tribal council?”
“It would mean dire consequences if the plan were revealed prematurely. All must be in place before we strike.”
“Then the answer is yes. You will help the demons enter into your world of dragons that we may gain their power over reality and twist it for our purposes.”
“Only if the reward we receive will be to our purposes, demon. Never forget that. Betrayal of the dragon tribes is unheard of, but there is still a penalty, the thought of which makes even my hot blood freeze.”
“That’s why this will work, dragon. None of your kind would ever suspect such a thing.”
“Already there is talk of barring the gate between the dragon world and the human world. Too much of us has become known across the time and history of man.”
“What of it? The humans know of us as well, and frankly, it’s a lot of fun. We add spice and adventure to their otherwise humdrum lives.”
“Not so humdrum that you’ve neglected their habits of smoke and drink.”
“I admit that they’ve created some few interesting innovations.”
“Practices which are thanks to the already growing imbalance created by dragonkind’s presence in their world. We don’t have much time.”
“Then we must solidify our plan, dear dragon. Already our forces are massing. All you have to do is place key figures next to the heads of the tribes and then open the rift from our dimension of darkness into your realm, a direction from which they would never expect an invasion.”
“Then your forces here would provide a flanking maneuver. An attack from one vector could be repulsed, even though your forces are far more numerous, but from two fronts, they’d never have a chance.”
“Not if you also capture or kill the tribal heads, throwing the remaining populace into chaos just long enough for us to press our advantage.”
“Not all of your elves are with you. I’ve heard rumors.”
“It is true,” the dark demon sighed and feigned emotional injury. “There are some of us who have become misguided and actually favor the humans, granting them gifts and prosperity.”
“How will you handle them? If they sound the alarm and warn the dragons, the plan will fail miserably and miserable is exactly what we both will be as prisoners.”
“It is already being taken care of. We will isolate the folk of Direhaven from the rest of us and bind them securely, but we’ll need your help. There’s a perfect little hole, a pocket reality which will make the perfect place for their exile. However, we’ll need a few of you to open the rift since dragons have so much more access than we elves.”
“Demons, you mean. Yes, I’m sure we could do it. Give me the particulars and I’ll arrange it. When do you want it done?”
“Quickly. The sooner that Direhaven and its inhabitants are driven from the face of this planet, the better off we will both be. Then nothing will stop us from conquering the dragon realm, killing or banishing all those not of your tribe, and then together, we will control access to all of the realms and shape them in any way we see fit.”
“Ohmigosh! Then what happened?” Jake was proverbially on the edge of his seat, all thoughts of the boredom he’d experienced during the tour earlier in the day banished.
“This was how Direhaven came to be located in the Dark Hills, young Davidson. This is how I became the Mistress of our lonely outpost, alien sojourners in a strange land.”
“But then why didn’t you trust the dragons when they were exiled too?” Taylor had been nervously fingering the hilt of the knife he wore sheathed on his thigh and covered by his robes.
“It was dragons who exiled us here and we had never seen another of our kind in these hills until the dragons came.”
Shay turned her large head, snout facing the Queen. “It is not known that they came with us. Possibly they were here all along, and only chose to show themselves when the surviving dragon clans arrived.”
“It is possible, or perhaps they accompanied you here as guards and bedevilers to prevent you from recovering in time to mass a counter-strike against your betrayers.”
“In either case, you blamed us, not only for your exile, but for the presence of your baser brethren in this realm, adding more injury to your already beleaguered state.”
Although elf and dragon seemed to have formed a friendship, it was now apparent that their relationship was more of an uneasy truce, one that still did not let them easily trust one another.
By now, the entire company of elves, all of the inhabitants of Direhaven had turned out, standing behind and around the Davidson party, and even Dani was becoming nervous. This morning everyone had been so friendly and welcoming, but with the dragon here and a painful past being dredged up from murky depths, who knows how they might respond?
“It is true.” Janellize composed herself with some effort. “When we saw your arrival and then we noticed our malevolent kin were also present in the surrounding hills, we thought the worst. Then, when you came as an emissary of a so-called peace, we shunned you, threatened you, and our magics would have been effective against you in the weakened state your tiny band were in.”
“Which is the reason we sought you out. We needed allies in a foreign and unknown world. We had been wounded, beaten, most of us killed outright in the war. We offered you kindness and what few resources we had to offer, and sent us away to fend for ourselves. We could have perished, leaving none of our kind left, save those who abandoned our noble cause and cast their lot in with the demon hordes.”
“But you did find allies to help you build Vovin, didn’t you?”
“They came a few at a time at first, but once they got over the shock and fright at their dislocation and at the presence of dragons, we became their caretakers and then their friends.”
“You still mean the same for these children here?”
“They serve a greater purpose but joined with the others, we may finally be strong enough.”
“What of Direhaven?”
“What of Direhaven indeed, Your Highness? What will your people do now that we have agreed to this conversation?”
“That will take some deliberation, Shay. We had finally resigned ourselves to our fate, and now that we have given up all hope, you bring it again as a gift, or is it a curse?”
“Please.” Dani stood up. “Please stop arguing. Whatever happened in the past is over. If everyone is willing, we can still have a future together.”
Janellize and Shay turned their attention back toward the children.
“My dearest daughter, you have grown wise even to pointing out my folly. I apologize.” The dragon bowed her head in respect.
“As do I, Danijel. At my age and station, one would think I would display better manners.”
“I thought I knew about the war, the children, and our cause, but this is the first time I’ve heard this side of the story. Shay, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I could not, my child. It was not time and it is a tale only told by both of us, the Mistress Janellize and I.”
The Queen looked west toward the waterfall. “I see the sun is waning toward the horizon and we will have to save our mutual storytelling for the morning.”
Janellize turned to Shay who was still reclining, so that her face would be at a height comfortably regarded by elves and humans. “Would you care to dine with us and spend the night in our keeping? You would be our honored guest, as are these children.” She extended a hand in the Davidson’s direction.
Shay blinked and briefly hesitated, and only Dani realized that the dragon was experiencing a rare moment of indecision.
“Your invitation is exceedingly kind, and yet I must decline. I doubt you have shelter large enough for a dragon such as I, and when I dine, I feast upon a large amount of sustenance. Your larders might not tolerate such an assault, so to be considerate and polite, I am compelled to spend the night hours elsewhere.
Dani was still standing and yet her legs were trembling so violently, she thought she might fall. Only her long gown concealed this from the others, or so she hoped.
Shay didn’t trust Janellize and she didn’t trust the elves. She was afraid this was some sort of trap and that they might seek some sort of retribution against her on behalf of the dragons who exiled Direhaven.
But if that were the case, why had she let the children stay here, especially for days on end? If the elves were bent on mischief, they could as easily take them prisoner or worse.
Chervot and Lashu had made their evil pact in a dark cave in the side of some long forgotten mountain in a wilderness no longer inhabited by anything good and just. Couldn’t Shay and Janellize forge an alliance of light and trust? Was the enmity between them so great, even after all this time? How long had the elves been here before the dragons arrived, and then how much longer before the first of the children appeared?
“I see.” Mistress Janellize’s tone was cool, the dragon’s rebuff, although courteously delivered, was still well understood. “Very well. We shall impose on you no further. However the nights are cold in Direhaven at this time of year and we must all seek shelter before the sun sets.”
The elven crowd had already begun to disperse. Although the nobles remained as did the guards, many of the common folk had taken to their homes and shops in preparation for evening.
“May I have a moment with the children before I depart, Your Highness.”
“Yes, of course. I shall leave Wynjeon and a few of the other nobles to guide the children back to my home once you depart. I will take my leave of you now, Shay. This has been a beginning.” The Queen nodded her head but didn’t actually bow.
“I hope as time passes, this beginning will develop into a deeper relationship between your people and mine.”
“That is my hope as well.” Janellize turned, walked over to her Vizer, and whispered in his ear. He nodded and then the Queen started issuing commands to those who still remained.
“Come to me, my children.”
Dani led the Davidsons at a run toward the dragon and they all embraced her snout and neck or whatever portion of her they could reach.
“Shay, if you’re leaving, are you sure it’s okay for us to stay?” Dani tried to keep her voice low.
“Trust me, my child. All will be well.”
“But you don’t know about my possession. The demon Sakhr, a minion of Asmodeus. Shay, the elves used their magic to exorcise the creature but it’s still in my dreams. And there have been other things. We need to talk.”
“Patience, my child.”
“But they even know my hidden name. They have power over me.”
“But how could you. You’re never here!” Tears welled up in the dragonrider’s eyes. Shay was like a second mother to her, though she could hardly remember the first. How could she do this? Why wouldn’t she take them away from this place, especially if she distrusted Janellize?
“I know more than you imagine, Dani. You’ve always trusted me so please trust me now. All of you children. You will stay here for only a little while longer. Then you will be away on your journey again.”
“Can’t we just fly with you, Shay?”
“Zooey, someday you will fly higher and further than you thought you ever could, but that will not be today nor tomorrow.”
There was kindness in her voice mixed with gentle laughter, but Dani’s hurt and bitterness wouldn’t let her hear it.
“I will be back in the morning and I promise you will all be fine tonight. The journey and the story are both only beginning and there is much that must be added to both before you arrive at Vovin.”
Dani sighed. The children depended on her. She had to put on a good face. “As you wish, Shay. I do trust you so we shall stay.” She wanted to add that never in the twelve years that she had known the dragon had her trust been put more to the test.
Even though Shay had proven herself gentle and friendly on more than one occasion, being this close to her reminded Taylor of how imposing and potentially menacing she could be. He took Jake by the shoulder and started to back them both away.
“It’s time to be going, everyone.” Dani stood back and beckoned the rest of them.
“Farewell, my children, but only for a few short hours, I promise. I shall be back at first light. Then we will conclude our business here and begin the next chapter of your saga.”
She started flapping her wings, slowly, ponderously at first, and then, though immensely long, their motions became so quick that a hummingbird might be envious. And then she lifted herself into a twilight sky and toward a sherbet colored sunset.
As the dragon diminished and then vanished into the growing darkness, Wynjeon called to them. “This way. A chill is already in the air and your supper awaits you at the Queen’s table.”
The six of them turned and walked behind the Vizer, their guards, honor or otherwise, flanking them left and right as usual. One moment they were esteemed guests and then they felt like prisoners.
As they once again approached the castle and the night descended upon them, Dani wondered if any of the others realized in whose care Shay had left them. They looked like elves from old fairy tales and movies, but of all the names their kind had been called on earth, one of them stood out.
A demon had possessed Dani and another been with them in the guise of the cat Onyx. It was demons who had destroyed the dragon’s world, murdered most of them, exiled the rest. It was demons who had infested the Dark Hills, who haunted their every move since the beginning.
Now they were going to spend another night in the realm of Direhaven, a city of demons.
Every Thursday, Sue shares one of her photos and anyone who wants to participate, can use it as the inspiration for crafting a poem, short story, or other creative work.
I’ve been using them as weekly prompts to continue writing what I hope will be my first novel, one chapter at a time, the saga of five siblings mysteriously trapped in a world of gods, ghosts, demons, and dragons. Today, we saw that Direhaven is not what they thought it was and that their is a difficult shared history between the elves (or demons) and the dragons. We also saw our first hint at how both Direhaven and the dragons came to be exiled, and the foul alliance between Janellize’s kin and a rebel dragon tribe.
But what does all of this have to do with Dani, Mandy, and the others, and who are the other children residing in Vovin. The next chapter and those that follow will start to solve these mysteries and perhaps introduce more.
In the meantime, here’s a partial list of what I’ve written about the Davidson childrens’ adventures with Dani and Shay so far:
- Mr. Covingham’s Secret
- Wilderness Pilgrims
- The God of the Dark Hills
- Hall of the Mountain Kings
- Sojourn in Direhaven
- Trial at Sakhr
- What Secrets We Keep
I’ll flesh it out as time allows.
Let me know what you think of this story and the very uncertain future of the five Davidson kids. Thanks.
The next chapter is The Tracker.