Enjoy this 3 minute read from my epic fantasy story, The Doom of Arlg-Teg.
A long sleep enfolded her and Iluna remembered waking thrice.
The first time, to pain – the soreness in her belly, between her legs, and the swelling pressure in her breasts. But more pressing was the deep stab of loss. Her arms ached to hold her baby, but such a thing was impossible now. Anton would be making his way back to the Wolf Clan with their daughter, where she'd be safe. Perhaps the red cave had been nothing more than a dream. Had Anton dreamt it too? Is that how he'd found her? Iluna blinked open her eyes and witnessed an orange glow on low pine branches. Wood smoke wafted close, and she turned her head.
An old man crouched by a fire. He was small, the size of a child, and when she looked at him a sense of calm flowed through her, easing her grief. Then his gaze snapped to her and Iluna’s heartbeat raced. His eyes were like none she'd ever seen on a person. They were more like an animal of some kind. An owl, perhaps. The irises widened and his skin changed dramatically – mottled red, and black and grey, and he almost seemed to blend with the background. Fear paralysed her limbs. Iluna forced her mouth open to speak, but he spoke first, curt and fast, in a language she did not know.
“Diliah,” he uttered, and darkness took Iluna back to her dreaming, back to the red cave. Perhaps he was one of Ona’s messengers. Some part of Iluna’s consciousness hoped he wasn’t a spirit of the Malfir, come to take her into the angry depths of Malfiren.
The second time she came to, the world was moving beneath her. She lay on her stomach, face down. Her body remained sore and a hot wetness seemed to stick under her chest. She opened her eyes, and the world swayed. The scent of something, like warm leather, drifted to her as she lifted her head. Ruddy-brown fur greeted her, and its heat was a strange comfort. She lay straddled over some woolly beast; they traveled among the snowy pines. It was daylight. How much time had passed?
“Diliah,” someone whispered, and Iluna allowed her dreams to take her back once more. So tired. So tired.
When Iluna woke for the third time, her weariness was far from gone, but a crying babe assaulted her ears and made her breasts ache. Her eyes opened to behold a red glow on a rocky wall. She was in the cave. The red cave. The cave of her dreams. So she'd made it. Something like relief stirred in her chest, but then the memory of her daughter brought back tears and worry tightened in her throat.
“Hello?” she whispered. Only silence replied. She blinked the tears away to scan the cave. In the crevice of rock small red fungi glowed, giving the cavern its colour. One large bench held bowls, vials, and a little wooden carving of a woman; a goddess perhaps. A jug and cup sat on a smaller bench beside her. She recalled her tree-dwell in the Wolf Clan, her home, and the loss tightened its grip in her chest. It hadn't been much of a home, and it was her home no longer.
Iluna stretched, her body aching. Clean furs covered her. She peered beneath them. She wore a smock made with a rough material neither leather nor grass. A wet stain covered her chest. Her breasts were leaking milk. Weakness made her head fall back, but the crying sounds came again. She closed her eyes, tears falling on her cheeks. It was time to allow the dreams to take her once more. Anton had her baby. Their daughter was safe. Her own safety mattered not, and she was too exhausted to care.
The Doom of Arlg-Teg is the first book in a short trilogy called, Iluna's Song, and is a sequel to The Raven. It is available free when you sign up to Aderyn's newsletter, or available for purchase here.