The story so far:
“How did you get off that rock?” Merylis broke the silence and brought Avris back to the present.
“Did you swim?” Kilorra asked before her mother could reply.
Avris swished her legs in the warm water and shivered. She was thinking of getting back into the water since it felt so nice and the stone floor she sat on was very cold. Senashea noticed her shiver, “Red lady!” As soon as she called out, the lady in the red robe stepped into the chamber. “The fireplace needs attending.” The lady bowed, turned and left as silently as she had come in.
Avris couldn’t believe that she was finally able to tell that story of the flood. She was shivering just as much from that as she was from the cold floor she sat on. Now the children wanted to know more. She looked at her sister, who gave her a knowing smile. Why did this feel worse? Telling what happened should not be as bad as it was. She closed her eyes a moment and took a slow deep breath. When she opened them again, she looked down into her daughter beautiful green eyes and then up at the green eyes of Marchalla. They both had the most beautiful glowing white hair.
“We didn’t know how to swim back then. I didn’t learn how to swim until your father brought us here to live. Senashea had us learning to swim within days after she adopted us.”
“What is adopted?” Kilorra asked.
“Gynyorra and I took Avris and Monorra in as our own children. We couldn’t help but fall in love with them. Seeing them dance was delightful. Then Monorra stopped and brought Avris her sword and she danced so majestically with it. I will never forget that day. A council meeting was about to take place when Garthlac brought Anash in to make the request for them to live in the lair. So as Avris danced with her sword, the dragon council was entering the chamber. What was usually very noisy was the quietest that chamber has ever been. Not a single dragon spoke. They all watched intently. Then when she ended her dance and bowed down to Gynyorra, the council cheered. It didn’t stop until my mate stood up. I can still see him speaking that day. He said, ‘Welcome my children. My home is now thy home. Ye shall take on my name for ye dance with the heard of a free dragon. Ye shall now live as free dragons. Welcome Avris and Monorra, Daughters of Kothar. For I, Gynyorra Kothar, have spoken.’”
The sister blushed as Senashea told about that day. Avris actually hoped that this would get her out of telling what happened after the flood, but Kilorra was not one to forget.
“So how did you get off that rock and how did you meet father?”
There were still a few fairies fluttering about the chamber, but most had settled down. You could tell that they were listening to the stories being told. Avris looked up at them. Looking at them gave her some strength. Like telling about the flood, she had also never told how they were rescued from the rock or what happened after that. But the story about how she and Monorra met Anash had been told so many times that she would not be surprised if her daughters could tell that one just as if they had been there.
“We were on that rock for a few days before an old man found us.”
“Days, mother?” Gaebrah questioned.
“Yes, we were there for a few days.”
“How did you survive?” Marchalla inquired.
Avris and Monorra both looked up at the fairies in the chamber. Senashea saw this, “The fairies took care of you?”
“Yes. They brought us fresh apples every morning and every evening,” Monorra told them.
“I was old enough to know that it wasn’t the right time for apples to be ripe. I puzzled over that for a long time. I believe that the fairies used magic to get the apples ripe for us.”
“So you lived on apples until you were rescued,” Avris nodded at Marchalla, “How did you get from the rock to the Fire River Tavern? Did that ornery old Sap rescue you?”
“No, it was just a mean old man on a raft. One morning he was there. He found us before we woke up. I don’t think he meant to frighten us, but he did. Monorra almost fell in the water when he tried to wake us.”
“Who was he?” Gaebrah asked.
“I never learned his name, or anything else about him. He spoke a different language. He did have food and that is what he used to coax us off the rock onto his little raft. He took us straight to the shore and we then ran up to our little cottage with the old man following us. No one was there. I had hoped that one or both of our parents had made it there. For some reason I could not believe that my mother was gone. Even today I still feel that she is somewhere out there wondering where her children are.”
“Do you really think she is still alive?” it was Andileeda the quiet one. Everyone looked at her and she blushed.
Avris gave her sister’s daughter a warm smile, “Believing that she still lives helps me feel better.”
“What was her name?” Merylis asked.
Avris didn’t expect this question, but somehow it made her feel good that they wanted to know. She looked at her oldest daughter, “My mother’s name is Gaebrah.” Gaebrah blushed brightly.
Six ladies in red robes entered the chamber. They were pulling a cart full of logs. Off of the top of the logs they pulled two long benches and placed them in front of the fireplace and then began to stack the logs. Each log was about five feet long and very thick, but the ladies moved them with ease. While they filled the fireplace Monorra and Marchalla got the children out of the water and helped them back into their robes. Avris sat a bit longer with her feet swishing in the water.
Senashea saw how Avris was pondering over what she had been telling the children. She came up to her barely making a ripple in the pool, “Are you alright my child?”
Avris looked up at the dragon that had been a great mother to her. She loved Senashea, but never truly accepted her as a mother. At this moment she felt she could. She stood up and put her arms around the dragon’s nose and hugged her. She held for a long moment, “I’ll be alright.” She then put on her robe and joined the others by the newly lit fire.
When the red ladies finished they took the cart out of the chamber and as the door was closing, Senashea also settled down by the fire.
Gaebrah had heard some of this story from her father, “What happened after you looked in the cottage?”
“The old man found my father’s wagon and began packing his things and lots of stuff from the cottage. He also took our two cows. He didn’t try to get us to help, but somehow we knew we were going with him. So we kept bringing things out and putting them on the wagon. We shouldn’t have bothered, but we were young and didn’t really now what was happening.” She paused and looked deep into the fire, “We rode with him and of course we got very bored. So anytime that we stopped we just had to get off that wagon and do some running around. We ran around and played longer than he liked. He usually ended up yelling at us and we didn’t understand anything he said.”
Then Avris pinched up her face. This next bit wasn’t all that nice to remember, let alone tell to her youngest daughter. She thought about it a moment as she stared into the fire. Kilorra was still much younger than when this happened to Avris. She wondered if she was old enough to understand. Avris then wondered if she herself was old enough to understand.
“One evening before we were to eat supper he became angrier than ever. He grabbed us both and stripped us naked. Then he tied us both up. We were tied up with our arms outstretched between the same two trees. He had us facing each other.”
Monorra closed her eyes. Listening to her sister had brought tears to her eyes. All the others looked at Avris with shock, disbelief or in Merylis’s face there was terror as she realized what was going to happen next. “Without having to turn my head I could see him as he walked through the bushes. He took his time going through the branches until he found the right one. It was a long one and he took his time stripping it of leaves. He stood there behind my sister swishing and whipping it through the air. Monorra started crying long before he turned and looked at us. She tried her best to move her bottom around to the other side of me. He then started talking to us in a slow calm scary voice. We still did not understand what he was saying. But we did understand that he was very angry at us.”
Gaebrah got up and filled a cup with water and brought it to her mother. She took it and just held it or awhile staring down into it. “Then he just started whipping her. He aimed mainly at her bottom, but did not care if he hit her anywhere else. She squirmed, cried, wiggled and screamed as he kept whipping. Sometimes he missed and hit me. I was determined that he could not make me cry out loud, but I had tears streaming down my face. I stared at him with all the anger I could muster. I didn’t move or flinch even when he hit me. He suddenly stopped and stared back at me. I could see that my defiance angered him even more. He pointed his finger at me and said a lot of words. They meant nothing to me. Why should they mean anything? He spoke a different language and he was not my father. We did not belong to him.” Those last few words were filled with anger and her right hand was clenched tightly in a fist as she spoke them.
Avris raised her cup to her lips and slowly sipped. She didn’t realize how dry her throat had become. She finished the cup and Gaebrah refilled it. She smiled weakly at her daughter as she did so. She was glad that Gaebrah was so mature for her age. She was able to tell her things that she told only to her sister. Her bond with her eldest daughter had grown strongly in the past two years as Gaebrah had been taking sword and dance lessons from her mother. She knew she would one day be a Dragon Dancer like herself. She looked forward to the day they would give her that title. Then she looked at Kilorra. She too was learning to dance with a very little sword. Even though she loved to learn anything that anyone could teach her, she was refusing to mature.
“Monorra was crying bitterly with her face nestled in my neck. I never heard her cry so hard before then. I felt I had to be strong for her. Then he came around to my side. I didn’t move and I continued to stare at him. What I didn’t know was that he had no intention of stopping until I was crying as hard as my sister.” Avris hung her head as tears welled up in her eyes. She didn’t try to fight them, “He was relentless. First the tears began in my eyes and then I began to feel choked up in my throat. I had never been whipped or spanked like that ever. Yes, my mother did spank me, but never with my clothes off. Even after I was crying, this old man kept on. He was determined to break me. He didn’t stop until I was hoarse from screaming. I was also no longer able to stand and the only thing keeping me up was the rope that held me between those trees.”
The chamber was quiet except for the crackling fire and Merylis’s sniffling. Avris looked at her sister and saw tears running down her face. Thinking back then made her shiver. The fire and the robe could not keep the chill of the past away. Avris felt she could not speak anymore and stared down at the floor. The story was not finished. She drank more of her water, but that did nothing for the lump in her throat.
Monorra put her arm around Avris and that gave her strength, “He left us there crying as he set up a fire and cooked his meal. It smelled good, but after he ate, he went to doing other things and didn’t untie us or feed us. He acted as if we were not there. When he started making himself a bed to sleep in, we started screaming at him. I would have screamed all night at him. If I was going to go hungry, sore and cold that night, then he wasn’t going to get any sleep.”
Gaebrah brought a cup of water to Monorra as she was wiping tears from her face. Then she refilled Avris’s cup.
“He tried to ignore us and sleep, but we just kept on. I began to wonder if he had gone to sleep. It was a cloudy night and the only light we had was from the dieing fire. We were not near enough to feel its warmth. Then suddenly he was there beside us. He put slave collars on us before he undid the ropes. Then he pulled us over to the wagon and hooked our chains to it. He gave us only one blanket to share and then he left us there.”
Avris took her sisters hand and squeezed it. They looked at each other. Everyone could see that this story was painful for them.
“Not that night, but a few nights later, that old man woke me up in the middle of the night and unhooked my chain from the wagon. He took me to his bed,” Avris glanced up at Gaebrah and then looked at the fire. There was a long silence.
“Ye don’t have to tell us. If it is that bad, we don’t have to know,” Gaebrah felt she knew what had happened to them. She wondered if it had been as bad as or worse than when Migus had taken Avris for a harlot and defiled her. That memory came hauntingly back to Gaebrah. It was so strange how much Migus had changed since then. Only a few were disturbed in his presence. Avris and Monorra tried to never be around when he was, but they all were friends with Tonnagell and their son Mallus was Kilorra’s best friend.
Senashea looked at Avris and Monorra and saw a look that she had seen many times between them. She had always sensed a very protective bond between them and now she was sure that it was this time with that old man that had created it. The dragon knew in her heart that she could understand it if they didn’t tell what happened.
“He had his way with me. Then he put me back in the wagon with Monorra. I cried till I fell asleep. For the next two days I stayed curled up in the back of the wagon. Monorra couldn’t get me to speak and if it wasn’t for her, I would not have eaten.”
“He took your maidenhead,” Senashea spoke softly.
Avris nodded, “He did not return our clothes or ever unchain us. He barely fed us and since we couldn’t give him any more trouble, he never whipped us again.”
“How did you get away from him?” Kilorra asked.
Avris looked at her daughter and smiled weakly. It was a relief to finally tell all this, but it still made her heart feel heavy. Now she could see in the eyes of all around that they wanted to know the answer to Kilorra’s question. She looked at her sister and could see in her eyes that she was proud of her for letting this story be told.
“We were with that old man for a few more weeks. Then one night there was a full moon. He didn’t stop that evening. So as it got darker, we went to sleep. Sometime late in the night we were awakened by a young woman with the brightest red hair I had ever seen. She had the key to our collars and she freed us and guided us inside a large building. She was speaking to us, but we didn’t know what she said. We didn’t know her language at that time, but we could tell that she was a kinder person. Her name was Tilly.”
Monorra continued, “We were then in a great hall where many men and soldiers were drinking and partying. She marched us quickly past them and into a room in the back. There was a tub of hot water waiting for us and she helped us both in. It was wonderful to finally get a bath.”
“I could have stayed there all night soaking and cleaning myself.”
Monorra smiled at her sister, “But Tilly kept rushing us along and when she was satisfied that we were clean, she got us out and wrapped us up. Then she took us up some stairs to the upper hallway. We could see that this tavern was also an inn. There were many rooms and she took us to the one at the end and quickly ushered us inside.”
“There were two beds in that small room, with a window in between. We had not slept in a bed in weeks and these beds were nicer than the ones we had up in the loft back home.”
“Even with a bed for each of us. We slept together that night.”
“We slept late and I was the first up the next morning,” Avris said, “Out the window I saw a river with some falls and to my right was an old stone bridge. Tilly was down by the river with the other girls that lived at the tavern drawing water from the river. There was an old broken wall with a wheel beside it in the water. The water was turning it. Then on the other side of the river was a forest with a road through it coming up to the bridge. It was beautiful and I have always enjoyed that spot from then on. Later it became a special place.”
“How is it special?” Marchalla asked knowingly.
Monorra smiled mischievously, “That is where Anash asked Avris to go away with him.”