Chapter one: Q; Dream or Nightmare?
(In which I begin my adventures)
I was getting soaked. The spring rains were coming down with a vengeance, and there was little hope of them letting up. “Bother! Why do I always get stuck in the rain?” I asked myself, cowering down against a nearby wall. A huge clap of thunder sounded around me and I covered my ears, squeezing my eyes tight shut. Call me scardey cat, but I hate thunder with a passion.
But it was a sound louder than thunder that made me look up; it was the noise of men shouting, horses neighing and woman screaming. All seemed to have gone dark, and the dark was only broken by flashes of lightning. I was so shell shocked that I stood, frozen in position, unable to utter a word. The smell of blood and wet earth mixed with acrid smoke made me want to throw up. A lightning flash had lit something and it was burning.” Lord, what does this mean?” I screamed in my mind, wishing desperately for some kind of reply. I received none. Suddenly a huge streak of lightning struck a tree beside me. I heard a loud crash as it came down, and then a piercing shriek of pain.
All my nursing training kicked in, and I hurried (well, as much as possible in the mud and rain) towards the sound. Falling to my knees beside a figure, I quickly assessed the situation. Whatever was burning was giving of just enough light for me to see that a young girl was trapped, pinned underneath a branch of the fallen tree. She was moaning in agony, and my heart went out to her. “Keep still!” I commanded, and began digging away at the sodden earth with my bare hands. “Help me!” she cried, her body shivering violently.
“I’m trying, I’m trying, but your arm is pinned under the tree, I need to dig a hole around it so we can drag it out! “I yelled back at her “you MUST be brave! Don’t close your eyes stay with me!” The muddy ground made it easy for me to dig a hole, but each handful I threw over my shoulder was causing the girl more pain!
Finally I had made a space large enough to slip her arm out. “You have to be strong sweetie! This is going to hurt!” I yelled, I could feel her bracing herself. Trying to be gentle, but aware of every precious second that slipped by, I eased her arm from under the branch. The girl screamed out again in pain, and then went completely limp. “I’m sorry honey” I muttered under my breath, and laid her arm straight against her side.
The fire had died down, but there was still noise of metal clashing against metal and cries of rage and terror. I stood up, knowing I needed to find help for the girl fast. It was cold, and she could suffer from hypothermia badly if I didn’t take action. “Help, I need help over here!” I screamed, but I had little hope of my cries being heard.
A huge fork of lightning lit up the sky, and briefly illuminated the whole area. I was standing up, and saw a dark figure on a horse riding swiftly towards me. As the blackness fell again, I heard a triumphant cry, and then I was being swung up in the air! I let out a shriek of shock, receiving a hard blow for my pains. “Yeshua” I whispered, before plunging into blackness deeper than that of night.
When I awoke, the first thing I was aware of was a sharp twinge that shot down my back, mixed with a steady background ache. The next thing I noticed was the noise. Unearthly shrieks and wails were heard, mixed with what sounded like sellers advertisements of their wares. Music that could only be described as Middle Eastern filled the air. The nasty smell of dried blood, unwashed bodies and strange foods made my stomach turn. Groaning I opened my eyes. The sight that met them was totally unexpected. I was riding through dirty cobble stoned streets, in what seemed like a procession of soldiers. But ones far different from our world. They were tattooed all over, and had spiked hats a bit like turbans on their heads. Their ears were cruelly pierced, and in their hands long curved swords gleamed. Crowds of people were lining the way, woman dressed in black (they looked like Muslims. in burkas*) Children cheering the warriors on, old men shouting out their sales pitch shaking wares beneath peoples noses.
The style of the architecture was extremely Middle Eastern, with domes, pinnacles and detailed patterns in a variety of colours, but the obviously predominant colour was black. The wailing started again, and I saw woman scratching their cheeks and tearing their hair, crying out to some unknown deity. What sorrow made them do such a thing? I did not want to know. Eerie sounding flutes and ominous drums combined with some instruments I could not name gave the dirty and dark place a terrifying atmosphere.
“Oyoyoyoyo” I whispered, feeling my spirit quivering before such a desperate place. “Why Lord? What is happening?”
A harsh laugh filled my ears. “So, Zarach*, you are awake. I trust you enjoyed your sleep.” This statement was followed by another guttural laugh, which sounded like gravel being poured onto a sheet of tin. I made a move to block my ears, but then noticed my hands were tied. “Where am I?” I asked, my head spinning over what was happening to me. “In the land of Harad, in the great city of ***********.” I shuddered. If what my captor said was true, I was in middle earth, and not just any place, no, in one of the most wicked lands in it’s history!
Just then a dark shadow fell over me, and I looked up. In front of us was a massive castle; its walls were black, as were its banners. The drums beat faster, the flutes shrieked louder. We passed through the gates and it was then I saw the most gruesome sight I have ever beheld. Heads, that had been chopped off were hanging on pikes, expressions of pure horror on their darkened faces. Some were fresh, and blood still ran from them.
I felt light headed, a sickening feeling of terror, threatening to overwhelm me. My captor laughed at my dread and fear, and spoke words that will stay imprinted on my memory forever. “Look well, O traitor kings daughter, on what happens to those who defy the ruler of the world!” He laughed again, and I felt myself falling, falling, falling into utter darkness ……………… the drum beats echoing into my very soul.
I woke up in a large, four-poster bed. A smell of heavy spices filled the air, and lamps burned softly, giving off just enough light to create a world of mysterious shadow. I raised myself on one elbow and looked around. Immediately a woman came rushing up to me. Like the women on the street she was wearing a black burka, I could only see her eyes, which were dark and sharp. By various movements and gestures she motioned for me to follow her. As soon as I got the message, she hurried towards our destination. Still feeling the effects of my blow, and half drugged by the sickly sweet smell of incense I followed her without complaint.
We entered a small room; a large bath was in the middle of it and I could hardly see for the steam. Two other women came towards me, both dressed in those hideous black robes. They gestured for me to get into the warm water.
When I hesitated, they began pulling at my clothes. Seeing I had no other choice, I complied, and was soon in the water. The three women did not leave me for a moment, but it made no difference as I had my back to them and they made no sound. Soon however, I felt a touch on my head, and then a stream of water was poured onto my face.
I coughed and spluttered, but my “helpers” took no notice. I was duly scrubbed and rubbed within an inch of my life.
Finally I was allowed to get out, and was handed a robe. The water should have woken me up, but the smell of incense kept me light headed and dreamy. Supposing that I was in the middle of a strange dream, I submitted to their various administrations. Oil was rubbed into my skin, and my hair was combed and then it also had oil brushed into it.
I was sprayed with all sorts of exotic perfumes, which made me sneeze more than once. My nails were filed, and painted a bright red.
After what seemed forever (and it must have been a while for my hair was quite dry) I was lead, like a lamb, into another room. This room was much lighter than the rest, and a lot more airy. Though in comparison to many rooms it was still dim. The only furniture in this room was a huge wardrobe, and a large mirror. As no incense was being burned, only candles, my senses came back to me very quickly. I began to panic, what was I doing here?
Then the full memory of what had happened yesterday flooded over me. I would have screamed, but I didn’t seem to be able to make a sound, my throat was tight and I fought for air.
Meanwhile, one the ladies had gone over to the wardrobe. Opening it she pulled out some sort of dress, it looked extremely flimsy. The woman came over and handed it to me. I took it in my hands. Holding it up I saw a red dress, with thousands of beads sewn onto it. It was made of layer upon layer of thin veiling. The style was like a cross between a Middle Eastern pantsuit and a Middle Ages court dress. Snatching it from my hands, one of the women began undoing its many shimmering buttons. Then, without ceremony, my robe was pulled off and the costume shoved over my head. I let out a yelp off surprise, but they took no notice. As soon as the dress was on me, they pulled me towards the mirror. I looked up, and gasped in shock, surely that wasn’t me in the mirror?
The dress was extremely immodest, to say the least, as you could see half my body through the thin veiling.
But it was still very beautiful. It set off my skin and hair perfectly, and my eyes looked darker.
However my thoughts soon strayed from my appearance. I was in the land of Harad, in it’s capital city.
Who owned this place? And by whose command was I dressed thus? What was I doing here, and why?
“Lord” I prayed silently. “Help me to face what ever comes after this”.
The women seemed pleased with me, as they clapped their hands together and walked around me as if I was a
large doll. One put a large cloak of velvet around my shoulders; it was incredibly soft, and dark as a midnight that had no stars. Around its edges were white jewels, of what sort I did not know, and did not have time to look, as just then a man came in.
I recognized him immediately as my captor, and I shrunk away from him in repulsion.
He smiled a wicked smile, and made me a low mocking bow. “I see you are finally ready Zarach, the king favours you, come with me.” He said, his voice was contemptuous, and he made no effort to hide his dislike of me.
“Where are you going?” I asked, inwardly disgusted at myself because my voice trembled.
“You mean of course, where are we going” He replied quickly. “You shall see, but you had better not make a commotion, I will not think twice about silencing your arguments in the same way as I did before.”
I remembered the blow on the head and shuddered. He laughed, if you could call such a twisted sound laughing,
And the offered me his arm. I had no choice and so I took it, waves of nausea sweeping over me as I did so.
End of chapter one. Lady Melora