This story tortures me so. They come to me in my dreams demanding my time and leaving me so restless. Not even being awake protects me anymore. They demand to tell me what happened. Why are they telling me? What is it they want of me?
This all began years ago when a spirit followed me home. Who is this spirit and is she the one that has given me these visions? That and many more questions do I wonder. At first I only saw them in my sleep and they did not come in any order. Is what I am about to write here a true tale or am I mad like the Dragon Dancer? This story is a tragedy that haunts my life. I cannot keep it to myself. I hope that you can bare it better than I.
I must begin with the first vision. In it I was someone else. A stronger leaner man with long thick black hair. He was the tallest of the ten men that walked with him. He wore the title of Dragon Keeper. That title was given to the only human allowed on the Council of Dragons. It was his plans and strategies that brought the war between the Dragons and the Dryads to a standstill.
Telling this is quite awkward. I am not the Dragon Keeper, but in this dream or vision I see and experience everything as if I am him. What he knows and understands is not the same as me. And yet I am experiencing both as if I am him and I am me at the same time.
I feel his strength. He is not only strong in body, but also in mind. Even though he is from a time long ago, I can tell that he is a much smarter man than I am. I can feel the comfort he has with the men that follow him. They are the best and bravest men in the Dragon army and he considers each one a friend. That includes the one walking beside him. An archer, who years ago did something that should have gotten him killed. An offense that would have been considered by many to be something that the Dragon Keeper should never forgive.
Even after having this vision a few times, I did not really know what a Dryad was. I had to go find out. Most people believe they are the spirits that live in trees. Many call them Tree Sprites. Most descriptions that I found did not do justice to these people. They could become spirit like and join a tree of their kinship. But if you killed a dryad, the tree would not die. Or if you chopped down a tree, it would not kill a dryad. They did this joining with trees as a form of communion with nature. This meant they could also hide within a tree. But they could not take and hide metal within a tree. So if a sword or shield was next to a tree, it was a good assumption that a dryad was within. They could also gain strength from trees, but they did not live within them. They could also enter one tree and if the branches or roots were touching another tree of the same species, then they could pass from one to the next in just an instant.
For the last few years the strategies that had been set down by the Dragon Keeper had kept a somewhat stressed peace on the land. No one had been able to get the upper hand and so very few skirmishes ever occurred. The death toll was no more than a handful each year.
They had set camp the night before in a place that the Dryads had agreed upon for this meeting. It was already cleared and a small pit made for their night fire was ready for them with dried wood placed in it. Also a freshly killed wild boar was waiting for them to cook. It was a peaceful night, but they still did not sleep well. They all felt like they were being watched all night. Of course they most likely were since dryads could stay in a tree trunk for two days before they had to slip out and breath.
In the morning after all were awake and had had their fill of breakfast, they began to prepare for the meeting. The Dragon Keeper felt hope this day as he and his men put on their armor. They had brand new dragon scale armor for this meeting and there was still some color in the scales. Everyone had their long hair pulled back into a tail. The Keeper had the longest hair and it had taken a bit longer to do his than it did for the other men. They wanted to look their best for they were about to meet the Empress of the Dryads. It was said that she was a beautiful woman. She was young and considered very smart. It was hoped that this day a truce would begin and also an end to this war. The Dragon Keeper knew that the Dragons and the Dryads could work out their differences and have a long lasting peace.
When all was ready I heard a sound and turned to see two very tall strong Dryads standing by an oak. They carried no weapons, but wore the armor of the Oak Guard. These were the elite soldiers that guarded the Empress. They motioned for us to follow and then turned and began to walk down the path. I and the men followed. The Dragon Keeper looked at their ears and recognized them as being of kinship to Cypress trees. Recognizing the different types of Dryads to him was as easy as it is for me to tell the difference between a rose and a tulip.
It was warm for this time of year with a cool breeze this morning. The air was fresh with the smell of newness. Green was beginning to show here and there, as spring was soon approaching.
On the Keeper’s other side walked Torlene, the oldest man in this group and many years ago was the keepers teacher. He was given the honor of carrying the banner. The symbol on it was dark blue upon a light blue field with a border of red.
We walked for about an hour before entering the camp of the Empress. During that hour of walking many thoughts go through the Keeper’s mind. He thinks of his mother, a beautiful woman with long wavy white hair and green eyes. She saw him off when they left two days ago. He can still see her standing with his two wives and six children. The breeze blowing in her hair. It always seemed like the breeze was going through her hair even when there was no breeze around. He knew the spirits were doing that. Sometimes he could see those spirits. But usually he could only hear them whisper in his ear or he could feel them brush by him like a small wind. At was now that he realized that there were no spirits around. Not even his father, who followed him everywhere. This should have bothered the Keeper.
The night before around the campfire, he and his men talked about their mothers. All of their mothers were still alive, except for Migus. His mother had died when he was a boy. He didn’t remember much about her. The Keeper felt sad about that tale. Then they talked about their fathers. Only a few of his men still had fathers living. Of the men whose fathers were dead, only Migus saw his father die. To the Keeper it was like hearing about his own fathers death again. Migus’s father had also died a hero fighting the Dryads. And then there was Tychus. He worried that someday he would discover that the Keeper had seen his father giving secrets to a dryad back when he was just a young soldier. The Keeper had killed that dryad that night. Because of that, his father fell upon a sword that night rather than be brought as a traitor. I looked back at Tychus as we walked. He had the same anxious excitement in his eyes that I felt in the Keeper’s heart.
We were led up to a large tent and then stopped by a dark man wearing a carved wooden mask over the upper part of his face. This mask was stained a dark rich tone. He is bald and wears rough skins that are sewn together in a strange manor. He looked out of place amongst all the clean bright colors the dryads had used to decorate the camp. His mask was the only thing that seemed to fit right on him.
"Before ye enter the presence of the Empress, I must bless thee," he spoke in a light raspy voice as he took off his gloves and placed his palm upon the forehead of the Dragon Keeper. Next he turned to Migus who stood beside me and was about to touch him, but hesitated for a moment with a puzzled look upon his face, then he smiled and touched him the same. He then touched each man that was with me and when he was done, he then motioned toward the opening of the tent, "Ye are now welcome to see the Empress."
The door to the tent was opened from inside by two beautiful dryad nymphs who beckoned the men inside. I led the way in and saw a room full of these nymphs all laying about wearing only long skirts that were made of some fine material. All of them were laying about on blankets and pillows in a manor that gave full exposure to their breasts. I almost didn't notice that there was at least one male in the tent. He was like the dark man outside, but had no mask upon his face. He was on his knees near the Empress, bowed as in a slave like manor. Looking down at his hands placed on the ground. Then my eyes truly fell upon her. She sat regal and straight upon a chair draped in light colored fabric. With this man by her side.
She wore a skirt of bright colors and a masks made of white leaves. She had nothing on from the waist up. Her breast were large and her nipples were excited and pointing at me and her belly was large, for she was with child. She looked like she could give birth any day now. And we could all see that she was human, not a dryad nymph.
The anxiety begins now. After seeing this dream over and over for years, I know what will happen next. I don’t want to know. That’s why I can’t keep it to myself anymore.
She stands up slowly and gracefully. All eyes turn to the Empress. Stepping down from the dais she approaches. Everything becomes so quiet. The Keeper is anxious and exited. My heart sinks lower and lower with each step that brings her closer. I want to yell and scream and wake up. But everything appears sane and normal to the Keeper and his men.
The Empress walks right up to the Keeper. He tries to look only at her masked face. But all I can see is that ring on her finger. A ring made of wood with little points on it. I hate that ring. I would run away, but I am only an observer from the Keepers point of view.
She stands now before him. He now begins to feel something familiar about this woman. He hesitates a moment as he admires her.
“I am Anash the Dragon Keeper. I and my men have come to propose peace between thy people and the Honor of Dragon.” At the stating of ‘Honor of Dragon’, the Keeper and his men seemed to stand a bit prouder and straighter.
I could scream. NO NO NO! I am filled with terror and can do nothing to stop her.
She raises her hands slowly. The hand with the ring comes to the Keeper’s face and the other to her mask, “Oh proud proud foolish man.” The mask comes off and the Keeper and I are caught by surprise. We know her. To him it is his sister. He knows her even after all the years that she has been missing. The first time I dreamed this, I was excited to see the woman who was my wife. But long after the first time I dreamed this nightmare she has parted from me. I now dread seeing her face in this dream. For in less than a second after I know who she is, the disaster begins.
The Keeper and I are looking deeply into her eyes with disbelief. We are stunned. And then her hand with that horrible ring is gently caressing the Keepers face. But only for a short moment. Then she slaps us and her face loses its smile and turns to look of pure disgust. The slap leaves a scar on the Keeper’s face. The scar burns and the burning spreads. Then suddenly the pain fades to numbness and as the Keeper drops to his knees from the oncoming weakness, he speaks one word, “poison.”
With wildness in her eyes the Empress quickly steps away and screams, “ATTACK!”
I am on my knees with the numbness spreading all over. I can’t turn my head, but just before I fall, I see the dark man run at Migus and then what we thought were pillows erupted to show that it was soldiers hiding under the blankets. This was an ambush.
I fell over and laid there on my back looking straight up. My men were surrounded and outnumbered. The clash of swords was deafening and I could do nothing. I could not look around, but I could tell that my men were dieing. Then as suddenly as it began the silence of the end set in. The Empress walked over and stood above me. She gloated. Her court of nymphs gathered behind her and now they were wearing robes to cover their nakedness and their faces were covered with disdain as they looked down upon me.
A Dryad soldier walked up to her and bowed. Without looking at him, she commanded, “Pack up the camp, but leave this tent. It is now a place of death. Is my carriage ready?”
“Yes my Empress, it awaits you outside”, the soldier spoke without looking up.
“I shall leave now. Send out the word. The attacks begin at sundown. It is time for the dragons to die”, with that she turned and walked out followed by her nymphs.
They left the soldier who did not move until they had left the tent. He then came over and kneeled beside me. He looked directly into my eyes. There was sadness there, “I am the Oak Master. I wanted to fight you to the death with honor. But she is my Empress and I must obey.” He then placed one hand on the Keepers heart and the other upon his own. He closed his eyes for a moment and then got up and left.
I lay there knowing that death was slowly taking the Keeper. I could not move and breathing was becoming harder with each breath. Laying there amongst the dead men, not knowing how long this will take was the worst way to go. Knowing he would never see his family ever again. It seemed like forever before a movement was heard. Someone was getting up. Then a moment later, Migus was beside me along with the dark man who stayed bowed beside him. Tears were in his eyes.
“This slave grabbed me and hid me under the blankets. He saved my life, but kept me from fighting”, he took my hand, but I could barely feel it squeezing. The Keeper looked up, saw him crying and his heart went out to him.
With great effort, “My sword. Put my hands upon it. I must hold it up.” Migus pulled the sword from its scabbard and put the Keepers hands upon the hilt, holding the hands in place as he helped hold the sword straight up above the Keepers head. Taking in a deep breath and with the last of his strength, “I bequeath my soul unto this sword!” Then it seemed like forever before the Keeper spoke again, “Give my sword to my . . .”, another breath was taken and then, “ . . . songg . . .” The word song was not what he wanted to say, but that is what came out. And his last thought was of a tall beautiful woman with green eyes and long wavy white hair. He felt love and respect for her. His heart ached to see her.
I always awake at this moment. I have always felt that if I did not, I would die with the Keeper. It is now a relief to wake up and have the dream over, but the first time I dreamed it, I awoke to find that white haired woman that the Keeper loved standing at the foot of my bed. I saw her eyes first. They glowed green in the moonlight that came through the window. It was like a breeze was blowing over her, but I did not feel it.
She looked directly into my eyes, “She is born!” Then she was gone.