The Tale of Ander Collins: Chapter Five

Fiction By LoriAnn // 4/3/2009

Ander bowed reflexively – the same deep bow Cook had taught him even before he could walk. The ex-governess remembered her old days as a teacher for well-bred children and tried to teach her ward the manners of the upper class, though Ander had admittedly paid little attention to his lessons. The bow, though, came naturally, since he used it often enough in the palace. “It is an honor to meet you, m’lady.” Even the words were automatic, though while he said them, Ander was frantically trying to think of a way to get Thraluic’s attention without bringing the Queen’s wrath on himself.
“You should be honored, mortal,” Queen Celzara said archly. “It’s not every day that I bother to speak to one of your rank.” She smirked. “And believe you me, boy, you are rank.”
Ander bristled, but said nothing.
The Queen continued. “Anyway, despite your current condition, boy, I do admire your ambition. It’s not very many kitchen boys who will aspire to a dragon’s hoard.”
Ander shook his head. “I’m not after his hoard,” he protested. “I don’t think he even has one. And –“ A sudden question hit him. “Hey – how do you know that I’m a kitchen boy? I never told you.”
Those cat-like green eyes seemed to laugh smugly. “Oh, I have my ways, kitchen brat. But that’s beside the point. You will now work for me.”
“What?” Ander blinked in confusion at the sudden change in the conversation.
“Humans are so slow,” she muttered to herself. “Let me put this as clearly as I can.” Queen Celzara spoke slowly and clearly, as though to an infant or a simpleton. “You are now my slave. Thraluic – pardon me, your former master – has stolen something very precious from me. Find his hoard, and bring me what I want, and I will protect you from his flames, as well as not killing you myself. If you succeed, I will even take you into my protection, so you do not have to face his anger. But fail me, or refuse, and you will suffer the consequences.” She said consequences as though it were a delicious treat, running a dainty tongue over her red lips.
Ander felt sick to his stomach. “C-consequences?” he stuttered.
Queen Celzara’s eyes narrowed. “Let’s just put it this way,” she hissed. “I can do anything – and I mean anything – I please, and no one has the power to resist me. My wiles are enough to make even you so-called master turn against you. And there are fates oh-so much worse than death.”
Ander’s knees went weak with terror, and he would have collapsed if not for Celzara’s magic holding him in place. The queen’s eyes bored into him, and his mouth went dry under their green heat.
Desperately, his voice little more than a whimper, he said, as though the words were drawn forcibly from his throat: “I will join you.”
The queen laughed; a mighty, mirthless laugh as cold as her gaze was hot. “Good, kitchen rat, very good. Now, hold still.” She stepped forward, and before Ander could even pull away, she pressed her hot lips harshly against his forehead, like a mockery of a mother’s kiss. Ander shuddered, and pulled away weakly.
Celzara looked satisfied. “You are mine,” she hissed. “And now you will never be out of my reach.” Ander heard her voice, but her lips did not move.
Horrified, he realized that she was speaking directly to his mind.
“Go, slave,” Celzara ordered, waving her hand dismissively. Ander’s legs gave way beneath him, and he fell to the ground. ”You have two days to find the dragon’s treasure and my prize, or suffer my wrath.” She pulled a jagged dagger out of her belt and ran it thoughtfully over the palm of her hand.
Ander scrambled up and stumbled away from his new mistress. As quickly as his feet would carry him, he ran to Thraluic’s cave. Vaguely, he could hear Celzara’s voice laughing in his head, but when he cast a frantic glance over his shoulder, the woman was gone.
He hesitated outside the cave, remembering Thraluic’s command to stay out. But his fear of Celzara was greater than his fear of Thraluic, so, he slipped into the cool shadows gratefully, looking back once more to make sure that Celzara was gone.
"I am never gone, rat." The cold laughter in his head nearly caused Ander to scream. "Now, get in there and find my treasure. Say nothing to your master."
Tears stung Ander’s eyes – the queen’s voice hurt his head – like a dozen bees buzzing inside and stinging the walls of his brain. He looked frantically around the cave, knowing he would see nothing – hadn’t he swept out the cave himself? No glittering baubles or jeweled trinkets shone from recessed corners; no gold coins or silver goblets stood in hidden catches. The cave was long and narrow, he knew, and curved to the left in a shallow curve about twenty feet in, and from there went deep into the ground – far deeper than Ander had ventured yet. His own nook was just around the corner, on the right wall of the cave, but other than his blanket and cleaning supplies, the cave was completely bare.
A bat suddenly darted out of the darkness, and swooped around his head, clawing his head and scratching his cheeks. Ander let out a muffled scream, and the leathery creature finally vanished, fluttering out into the open.
"Let that be a lesson, rat," The queen’s voice came, sounding slightly smug. Ander clutched at his head. "Do not dawdle on my business, or next time the punishment will be more…fitting."
He dared not to think his own thoughts, afraid she would hear them and exact punishment for anything even vaguely disloyal. But deep down, where only emotions surfaced, he was desperate to find Thraluic. Surely his master could banish the horrible voice.
Stumbling slightly, Ander hurried down the passage, until he was beyond the range out the outside light. He walked more slowly then, feeling for each footstep, lest he trip over some unseen root or rock and fall. The silence was pressing, and seemed to only magnify the buzzing in his ears – fainter now, but still painful.
Then suddenly, the tunnel ended. Just like that – he came to a solid wall. Ander felt for the sides of the cave and found them, meeting up solidly with the wall in front of him. He reached up as high as his arms would go, and all the way down to the rocky floor. The wall was joined all points, with no gaps that even a fly could crawl through, let alone a dragons Thraluic’s size.
Ander was bewildered, and he went back up the passage until he could see again, and started over – this time, feeling both sides of the passage to make sure he hadn’t missed some off-shoot or side tunnel. Nothing, until he again came to the dead end.
An exasperated sigh came from Celzara’s voice in his mind. "It’s magic, you dim-witted rat!" She barked "Push through it."
Ander balked. “It’s rock!” he protested aloud. “I can’t just walk through!”
Red-hot pain gripped his scull, and Ander collapsed against the wall for support. “Please,” he gasped. “It hurts…”
The pain released him. "Obey me, rat."
Uncertainly, blinking back the tears of pain in his eyes, Ander set his shoulder against the rock wall and shoved with all his strength. It gave under his weight, and he started back, surprised. "See?" The queen’s voice was mocking.
Gingerly, Ander shoved again, and sank up to his shoulder in the “rock”. It felt like jelly or lard; cold and mushy and thick. “Magic,” he muttered dazedly. “Of course.”
He pushed all the way into the magical barrier, which was thicker than he had expected. There was a tricky moment when he nearly panicked, afraid he would be stuck inside the “rock” permanently, but just as his lungs started begging for air, he fell through the other side. Stringy bits of the mushy substance clung to his arms and legs for a brief second, and then reluctantly pulled away and were absorbed back into the “wall”. From this side, it only looked misty – like a gauze curtain rather than a rock wall.
"Get up; you lazy lay about," the queen’s voice snapped. Ander winced and climbed to his feet. He looked up and into the room – and staggered back at the sight.
The cave was enormous here, bigger than the cathedral back in Kelner, bigger than the king’s palace itself. And in huge piles, nearly reaching to the far-away ceiling – were riches beyond even the most avaricious man’s dreams. Ancient crowns, scepters and coins of every denomination rose in stacks high above his head. Fist-sized emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds littered the floor like so many pebbles, scattered among the heaps of rich silks and gilded tomes.
Ander’s eyes were wide as he tried to take it all in, his mind dazzled by the sheer magnificence of it all. One handful of the stuff would make him richer than all the nobles of the Kelnerese court put together. He could buy a knighthood – a duchy even!
"Paltry." Celzara’s scornful mockery seemed to echo in the huge room. "All of this is a mere pittance compared to the legendary hoards of old. What is this world coming to?" She almost seemed disappointed.
Ander stepped forward hesitantly, opening his mouth to shout for Thraluic. If he could just find his master - "Wretch!" Celzara roared. "I read your thoughts, mortal – you will not betray me!"
Ander nearly collapsed under the weight of her rage, his lips sealed shut against any sort of cry that might attract attention. "Get up," the queen ordered.
Ander obeyed, and silently began to walk forward again, directed by the Wood Queen. "There, now, rat," she said. "That pile on the left. See it?"
Ander nodded and moved closer to the stack. Something on top caught his eye, and he leaned over it, his feet crunching on the bits of gold that had slid off the pile. He picked up the object gingerly, and examined it.
It wasn’t something he recognized – a clear, finger-length container, somewhat like the small jars Cook used to hold spices in the kitchen. It sparkled brightly – far too brightly for the dim light of the cavern – and a thin cloud of mossy-green smoke filled it about halfway. The mouth of the strange vial was capped with a small silver cork, shaped like a rose. It pulsed in Ander’s grasp, unnervingly similar to a small animal’s heart beating in his fist.
"Bring that to me," the queen’s voice was eager.
Ander hesitated. No matter what the queen said, the vial was Thraluic by rights. The boys in the kitchen had a rule – finders keepers, losers weepers. Even if Thraluic had stolen the thing – who was Ander to say that it hadn’t been for a good reason? It certainly seemed like an odd thing for the Wood Queen to be so zealous about, which meant it probably had more power than Ander could guess. What if she planned to do something terrible with it?
The now-familiar, gripping pain seized his head again, and a sound like a million knives squalling against slate filled his ears. Ander staggered back, still clutching the small vial in his fist. "Get out here now, slave," the queen’s voice ordered.
A sharp hissing sound erupted above him. Ander looked up, to see a seething mass of black creatures staring down at him, their red eyes burning and their sharp fangs bared. Bats. Huge, unearthly bats. Ander felt his hands instantly slick with a fine layer of sweat, and he clenched the vial even more tightly, even though a sudden tingling shot up his arm.
With a deafening shriek, the bats swooped down, opening their mouths to scream their rage – or rather, Celzara’s rage – at him.
More quickly than he would have thought possible, Ander spun around and ran. His feet seemed to know their own way back to the magical wall, and he darted around the piles of gold and precious treasures with reckless abandon, attempting to evade the bats.
There! The misty “wall” came into view as he dodged a mass of tangled golden chains. Ten strides away, eight, five – a bat dove for his head, and Ander tripped, his feet catching on a lip in the stone floor. He caught his balance and raced on – four strides, three, two –
He threw himself headlong through the jelly-like magic, skidding painfully to a halt on the other side and only barely keeping the vial from being crushed beneath him. He lay there a second, breathing hard; and glanced up. The wall looked like a wall again, and none of the bats seemed to have followed him through. The silence was like a soft blanket, coating his raw nerves and slowing his racing pulse.
"Get up." The queen’s unsympathetic voice racked across Ander’s tired mind. Groaning, he pushed himself to his feet, and trudged back up the tunnel, toward the entrance to the cave.
A sound came from behind him – like the faint flutter of leathery wings. Reacting instinctively, Ander ran, dashing through the darkness until he burst into the light and collapsed in the cave mouth.
Fearfully, he peered back into the darkness of the tunnel, but nothing appeared. That is, except for the large draconic snout that slowly emerged into the daylight.
“Thraluic!” Ander couldn’t keep the relief out of his voice. As a reward, his mind was briefly stabbed with a needle of pain. He flinched slightly.
“Something wrong?” inquired the dragon, eyeing him carefully. “You seem out of breath.”
Ander opened his mouth to answer, but the words that came out were not his own. “I was running,” he said. “There was a black rabbit, and I wanted to catch it.”
“Oh?” Thraluic sounded curious, but not suspicious. “Well, I brought you this,” he dropped a small sack from his claw. “There’s some hardbread in there,” he said, pointing with his nose horn. “The villagers in Mor make it for their journeys – it lasts for ages.”
Ander managed a weak grin. “Thanks,” he said. He involuntarily squeezed the small, purloined treasure. Not even that small movement escaped Thraluic’s keen sight, and Ander heard the queen cursing him faintly in his mind.
If dragons could raise their eyebrows, Thraluic did. “What are you holding there, lad?” his voice was low and rumbly, like distant thunder.
Ander glanced down, slowly peeling his fingers back from the small vial.
“Where did you get that?” the thunder was louder now.
Ander opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He looked desperately into Thraluic’s huge, green eyes, trying to communicate what the queen wouldn’t let his lips say.
The vial became hot in Ander’s hand, and he looked at it in confusion.
“Ander, look at me!” Thraluic ordered.
"Run," The wood Queen ordered. "Come to me now!"
Ander staggered, torn in two directions. His feet shuffled a bit toward the forest, but he couldn’t tear his gaze away from the vial, which was now glowing like a small fire in his hand.
"Come!"
The vial was like red-hot metal, searing into Ander’s palm. A strangled cry ripped itself from his lips, and he took a large, unsteady step toward the forest.
Thraluic stepped into his path. “Stop, Ander,” he says deeply. “Look at me.”
Ander shook his head mutely and tried to push past the dragon. “Ander, I command you – look at me now.”
Ander’s voice returned, but it was the queen’s words that he spoke. “Let me go, lizard!” he spat hatefully, and tears streamed down his face – from the pain in his hand, from the hatred in his voice, from the terrifying feeling of someone else controlling his body.
“Ander, this is not you,” Thraluic stepped into his way again. “You’ve been infected by that vial. Look at me, Ander!”
"Run, fool!"
“Look at me, Ander. Pay attention to my voice – forget whatever else you hear.”
Ander forced his eyes on the dragon, whose gaze was locked on his, unreadable and steady. “Listen to me, lad. I can help you.”
"No!" The queen roared. "Come to me!"
Ander shook like a tree in a storm, but he managed to nod at Thraluic.
"Run, you slave scum!" Celzara screamed.
Ander took a step toward the wood, but concentrated on Thraluic. The pain in his head diminished a little, though it was far overshadowed by the horrible burning in his hand. The dragon’s form swirled and went in and out of focus.
“Listen to me, lad,” he repeated. “Drop the vial. It’s what is hurting your hand – it’s poisoning you. You must drop it now.”
Ander gasped at the blazing fire in his palm, but his fingers refused to loosen their grip on the slender glass object.
"Run now! I promise you riches, boy! You will have half my kingdom! Just run and bring the vial to me!" The Wood Queen’s voice was increasingly panicked.
“Leave him alone, Celzara!” Thraluic roared. “This is between you and me!”
Ander’s attention was forcibly ripped from the dragon, and he took off for the woods, his legs pumping hard. Thraluic’s tail swung around and landed in front of him, and Ander attempted to leap over it. It was too high – he tripped and fell to the ground with a gasp. With a muscled foreleg, claws held safely out of reach, Thraluic pinned him to the ground.
Ander thrashed violently, struggling to rise, even as sobs of anger and fear shook his body. “Let me up!” he screamed.
Thraluic dipped his graceful black head and said earnestly. “Ander, you must let go of the vial. It will kill you if you don’t!”
"Don’t listen to him!" The queen ordered. Ander slapped at Thraluic’s legs and struggled more desperately.
The dragon tightened his grip. “Drop it Ander!”
Ander screamed in pain, with a rage that was not his own. His eyes rolled frantically, and he began to gasp for breath as the vial burned ever more hotly.
“You must let it go willingly, lad! I cannot take it from you without killing you myself!”
The queen put all her energy into Ander’s struggle to escape, accidentally freeing his tongue. “It hurts!” He screamed; his voice harsh and ragged. “Help me!”
In his mind, the queen’s voice snarled – but it was losing its strength. "Bring that vial to me, you lump of goblin meat, or I’ll –"
Her voice was cut off by a tree-shaking roar from Thraluic. “Drop it now, Ander,” he said, so low that it vibrated in Ander’s bones.
The boy moaned in pain, and strained powerfully, desperate to free himself from the tug-of-war. He stared into Thraluic’s swirling eyes, tears streaming down his face and dripping into his ears.
“Please,” he whispered. The world seemed spotted with multi-colored stars, filling his vision.
Thraluic blinked.
Clunk.
The soft sound of metal on bare earth roused Ander. He looked down at his hand, lying limply on the grass beside him. The vial glittered coldly on the ground, rolling slightly away from him.
A fading wail of rage filled his head, dissipating quickly; and fading away like the mist in the morning.

Comments

Hmm

Interesting... this dragon has an understanding side.

Ezra | Tue, 04/07/2009

"There are no great men of God. There are only pitiful, sorry men whose God is great beyond measure." - Paul Washer [originally Jonathan Edwards]

This story has captured my

This story has captured my attention & even drawn it away from SoL a little. :/ :)
Celzara seems...mm, a little psychotic.
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Seen on a billboard advertising
a Septic Tank Company:
"We're #1
in the #2 business."

Sarah | Wed, 04/08/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

Love it!!!! Go Thraluic! And

Love it!!!! Go Thraluic!

And I'm not the least bit jealous, either :)
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I've gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, please tell me to wait.

Anna | Wed, 04/08/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

:D

Love it! Really good, as usual. How could I have missed the fact that you posted this chapter a few days ago? Well, I'm really glad I found it now. :)
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"But I was thinking up a plan/ to die one's whiskers green/ and always use so large a fan/ that they could not be seen..."
--The Knight

Hannah W. | Wed, 04/08/2009

Wow!

I was going to comment earlier, but....piano lessons:(
So enough with that, time for the comment;) I was riveted to the computer the whole time I was reading this(that is 'til the teacher came in.) Have you ever read "This Present Darkness" by Frank Peretti? Just wondering, because the way you described Celzara's control of Ander's mind was a lot like some of the things from that book, but a lot different too. Either way it was amazing! Can't wait for more!!!
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"It's King Edmund, actually. Just King though. Peter's the High King. I know, it's confusing."--Edmund Pevensie

Ariel | Wed, 04/08/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

I like it.

You know this is really good...in case you were wondering. Sarah is right, this is fast becoming competition for other stories. You're good, and I like the way you you write...kind of carefree and yet professional...I like the description in the "mind battle" thing, the way you switched back and forth...very good.

"It's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you." from Batman Begins

The Brit | Thu, 04/09/2009

*Flushes*

You guys have no idea how much that means. It's one thing when your parents say you're not bad, but when peers - and other writers at that - have such glowing comments...well, it's good. :)
And no, I actually haven't read "This Present Darkness". Perretti freaks me out a bit. lol - I liked "Monster" though.

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"I am a dreamer, take me higher, open the sky up, start a fire...I beleive, even if it's just a dream." -Bethany Dillon

LoriAnn | Thu, 04/09/2009

oops

sorry, double post

LoriAnn | Thu, 04/09/2009

;)

I know what you mean about encouragement...when your mom says "Oh, I like it," you're like "Yeah right!", but when someone else says it, it means so much more.
I havn't read "Monster" but TPD WAS pretty creepy too...;)
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"It's King Edmund, actually. Just King though. Peter's the High King. I know, it's confusing."--Edmund Pevensie

Ariel | Thu, 04/09/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Maybe my computer will let me comment this time

you're doing such a good job on this. I like how you made the into the mind thing make more sense. Before I thought the vial gave her entrance into his mind but htis is so much better. On a side note. I can't wait for that one female character to show up. she is like my favorite next to Thraluic.
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I personally predict that the world will come crashing to a halt if you don't forward this to 50 Gazillion people by noon tomorow!!
-me (in parody of a chain e-mail)

Keri | Thu, 04/09/2009

Keep going

Why'd he listen to the lady? Ek!
Keep writing...

Anonymous | Sun, 04/12/2009

Agree

I agree with OFG. It's kind of weird when parents read your stuff.
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The Word is alive/and it cuts like a sword through the darkness
With a message of life to the hopeless/and afraid...

~"The Word is Alive' by Casting Crowns

May my words be a light that guides others to the True Light and Word.

Julie | Tue, 04/14/2009

Formerly Kestrel

I like this, I like the way

I like this, I like the way you're writing it.
The poor kitchen boy. His hopes are dashed....for the moment.

"Here are the beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron." C.S.Lewis

airlia | Thu, 04/16/2009

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived."
General George S. Patton

I'm confused. Some how some

I'm confused. Some how some way the above comment was posted here. I've read so many different stories today, I'm getting them all mixed up. I don't think that comment is supposed to be there. I don't think I've even read this yet. Looking at this, I don't even know who Celzara is. What I'm trying not to say is: Sorry about the comment above. I haven't the slightest idea how it got there. Ignore it.......I think

"Here are the beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron." C.S.Lewis

airlia | Thu, 04/16/2009

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived."
General George S. Patton

I'm commenting correctly

I'm commenting correctly this time.

This is soooooo good. I like the mind battle as well. Celzara reminds me of the White Witch in Narnia. Love it. Post more.

"Here are the beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron." C.S.Lewis

airlia | Fri, 04/17/2009

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived."
General George S. Patton

Next chap up

Next chap up soon!
Personally, I was afraid people would think she was too much like the other witch in the Narnia series - the Lady of the Green Kirtle or whatever her name was, in "The Silver Chair".

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"I am a dreamer, take me higher, open the sky up, start a fire...I beleive, even if it's just a dream." -Bethany Dillon

LoriAnn | Mon, 04/20/2009

Good. I forgot about that

Good.
I forgot about that witch. Great person.....sort of. The Silver Chair, fun, fun, fun.

"Here are the beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron." C.S.Lewis

airlia | Mon, 04/20/2009

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived."
General George S. Patton

OH, WOW!

OH, WOW! That was INTENSE! I like it!!!;) Very good, LoriAnn! Very good indeed...
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"Their most active years are the first six months"--Old Fashioned Girl, referring to cats.

Kendra | Mon, 04/27/2009

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"Are you sure this water is sanitary? It looks questionable to me! But what about bacteria?"--Tantor the elephant from Tarzan.

My legs were dancing and I

My legs were dancing and I realized when I finished the chapter that I was breathing hard. You are an absolutely amazing writer. I wish I could write like that.

"California", he said, "is a beautiful wild kid on heroin, high as a kite and thinking she's on top of the world, not knowing that she's dying, not believing it even when you show her the marks." - Motorcycle Boy, from S.E. Hinton's 'Rumble Fish"

Bridget | Sat, 05/30/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

wow...very intense...very

wow...very intense...very very good! Celzara is great (in an evil way, if that makes any sense) and go Thraluic!

KatieSara | Sun, 09/20/2009

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS