The Dragon Chain
Disclaimers: These are original characters in an original story that belongs solely to me. I dreamed the whole thing, and believe me, if I can get half of it down on paper I think youre gonna like it J Any resemblance to anyone, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This story will eventually deal with same sex couples, so if this is illegal where you live or it just plain is not your bag, please move on.
The ground shook as a lone figure made her way up the cracked steps of an old cathedral. Stepping around masonry and pieces of gargoyles that had toppled from the roof, she approached the gilded wooden doors. She stood: framed for a moment against the purple-black backdrop of the mid-day sky. Shaking her head ever so slightly, she paused to look at the pictures depicted on the great doors: on the left a knight in full plate armor is slaying a tiger with a lance, and on the right a maiden outlined in gold is taming a prancing unicorn with silver ribbons woven into its mane. Beautiful work; too bad it, and this whole city, for that matter, will be dust in a few hours.
She decided to ring the bell before trying to enter; hell, the way things have been going lately, the church might well be occupied by someone even more extreme in their convictions than the Catholics: Reaching out, she grasped the chain and gave it a hard yank. Well, at least now she had a weapon. She glanced at the corroded end, shrugged, and wrapped part of the three-foot long heavy-duty chain around her right hand. Keeping as much of her body hidden as possible, she proceeded to push against the knights door. Surprisingly, it opened as if the hinges have been recently oiled. Gripping the chain tightly and looking around for any danger, she edged slowly around the door and entered the church.
Now, at five foot eleven, she is not usually the smallest person in a room, but the man standing in front of her dwarfed her height by at least four inches. He held the handle of the door in his left hand, and his professional boxers build showed why it opened so easily. In his right hand is an aluminum baseball bat. Great. She knew how to fight; growing up in New York City its a survival skill that learned quickly. But the brute muscle developed during her teen years had since been replaced by the more flexible and lithe muscleage of a dancer, gymnast, and, occasionally, cat burglar. Agility, not strength, would be her saving grace this time. She flexed her knees slightly to loosen up, and decided to let the boxer make the first move. He took a step back and gestured with his bat at the darkness beyond the door. She walked slowly forward, silently praying that this wasnt a trap. Many gangs had turned to cannibalism because of the food shortage and an inattentive person could easily become someone elses lunch.
The door swung closed, and for a moment she could see nothing. She strained to hear the sound of an attack: strike while the prey is blind. But the only sound was the chain as it wove a shield around her body. As her eyes slowly began to adjust to the dim interior of the church, she looked for another way out, making sure that the boxer was always in the corner of one eye. A large circular stained glass window was at the other end of the cathedral. The sickly light that entered through it cast dark bars across the crucified form of Jesus hung just below. She crossed herself awkwardly; partly from the fact that she was still holding the chain, and mostly because she was uncomfortable with the motions of religions not her own. But hey, when in Rome... There is a door beside the alter, but she knew that it lead to the priests private rooms, and while there was sure to be an exit it would take too long to find it among the labyrinthine hallways that ran under the church.
"You are safe here," the mellow bass voice interrupted her search.
She whirled to the left, cursing herself for letting a possible enemy get behind her. The boxer was still standing beside the door with the bats end just touching the floor. He didnt appear hostile, but never take appearances for granted.
"You are safe here," the boxer repeated.
"Who are you," she asked, keeping her voice low to avoid an echo in the great hall?
"I am the Guardian of the Gate. Known to those who enter here as Gareth." He spoke matter of factly, as if she should have known already.
"What do you want?" Her questions are rather lame, but what can one say to a man whom apparently thought that he was the doorkeeper of a castle or some other medieval residence?
"I think the real question here is what do you want?" Gareths voice had a touch of humor in it, but his face showed no sign.
"I decided to hold a little cookout on the alter," she replied in a voice dripping with sarcasm.
Apparently, it was the wrong time to try to make a joke. Gareth moved menacingly forward, raising the bat. She backed up quickly and decided the best bet would be to drop the chain and show that she was harmless; besides, chain fighting was never her forte; she would most likely manage to do more damage to herself than to the boxer.
She relaxed her hand and twisted her wrist in a deft move that should have disengaged the chain, except that she had forgotten about the fringed gloves that she had put on that morning. See where dressing up for church will get you? The chain quickly became entangled. Confirming her place in hell with a string of swear words, she tugged futilely at the stubborn piece of metal, finally ripping it from the traitorous gloves and flinging it to her right, where she heard a thump as the chain hit the wooden pews. She looked up quickly, cursing herself for letting Gareth out of her sight again. But the giant man had not moved from his place by the door. As she watched, his dark face cracked into a grin and he doubled over in laughter.
"What do you expect from a cable installer," she grumbled, upset because the harsh truth was that being off the streets for two and a half years had softened her up more than she thought.
"Are we going to fight now or what?"
Gareth took several strained
breaths, wiped away tears, and looked with mirth filled eyes at the flustered
young woman who stood before him.
"Forgive me, I have not seen anything that humorous in quite a while," he said in his cultured voice as he set the bat on his shoulder. "I will not fight you. You are the Chosen.
Of all the churches in this city, why does this man have to be here? He could have lived in the synagogue around the corner or in the really big cathedral up the street, but he just had to pick the only church that she felt nostalgic about.
"Come everyone, there is no need to hide. She is the one Father has been telling us about." As he spoke, Gareth lifted the largest bar of wood she had ever seen and placed it in brackets across the door.
Her last thought before the sudden blossoming of light blinds her was that there had better be another way out of here!
She had just entered the surreal version of The Wizard of Oz. Staring openly at the strange assortment of people who appeared from under the pews and behind the alter, she hardly noticed that yet again she had turned her back on the boxer, and that he had, during that moment of inattention, moved forward to place his heavy, dark, ungloved hand upon her shoulder. She tried to move away from the possible contamination, but his grip was sure.
He leaned close and said remonsterably, "You dont really believe that the gloves protect you from infestation, do you?"
She had no time to answer for Gareth promptly leaned away and spoke loudly so that the "congregation" could hear.
"Come, meet your people; they have been waiting for you for a long time." Gareth had slowly been putting pressure on her shoulder, and now it was beginning to really hurt. She decided that the best thing to do would be to play along. The only thing she had left to lose was her life, and that would be forfeit soon anyway. She smiled and walked slowly forward.
"Should I make a speech or something," she whispered to her heavily muscled shadow.
"No. Just let them see you." Gareth propelled her toward the alter where the people had formed a rough line. There were seven of them, all looking at her with hopeful eyes.
"You want to loosen that a little, pal," she muttered, trying to shrug her shoulder under his clawed hand. He said nothing, but when they reached the first man Gareths hand relaxed slightly.
"Oh Chosen One, I have been praying night and day to the good Lord. I say to him, Lord, grant this boon and send to us the one who, with your blessing, will lead us from this modern day Sodom. Have we, housed in your temple for three months, not been faithful? Where have we failed you that you leave us to wait so long for salvation? But then, have we not already been saved? We who turned to you in this timeof trouble? Have I not dedicated my life to the worship
At this point her attention lagged. This guy sounded like one of those preachers on T.V., and he was dressed like one, too, in a bright blue suit that, although obviously new, looked as though it (and its occupant) had been run through the wax cycle at the local car wash.
"Uh, thanks," she said, cutting off the preacher mid-ramble. She sped up, pulling Gareth with her to the next person in line who took her hand and stared into her eyes.
This woman was dressed only in a pair of white thong underwear and black high heels. Now, normally this look would not bother Gareths companion, but this under-dressed woman was not really built for such a bold fashion statement. In fact, someone in her weight class should have been prohibited from purchasing white thong underwear in the first place.
"Samantha, the Chosen One must meet the rest of her people." He spoke very slowly and gently.
Samantha looked at him and then turned back to face the "Chosen One". She smiled sweetly, released the hand she was holding, and stepped away.
"Never mind those fruits. Peter has just found the Lord and Samantha cant seem to find her marbles."
The next person in line was a short, balding man in his early fifties, dressed in a brown leisure suit and grasping a half smoked, un-lit cigar in his mouth. He clasped her hand firmly.
"Of course, were all a little loony for sitting around here waiting for a Chosen One to come and save our asses."
"Sidney, you cant say ass in church." A woman, presumably his wife, hit Sidney on the arm with her handbag. She was wearing a flowered housecoat and curlers.
"Joanie, Ill say whatever the hell I want to say." Sidney dropped the Chosens hand and turned toward his wife. "Im trying to talk to our savior and you just cant keep your trap shut for one minute."
Joan took the edge of her housecoat in one stubby hand and curtsied clumsily.
"Its a pleasure to meet you, Chosen One," she said in her thick accent. "Please excuse us." She grabbed Sidney by the arm and tugged him down the center isle toward the back of the church. They could be heard arguing softly, Sidney swearing twice in every sentence.
The last three people (two women and a man) were clustered next to the alter.
"Youll have to forgive them. Sid was convinced that you were only a myth and Joans been worrying herself sick that he would decide to leave before you got here."
The speaker was the woman standing in the middle. She was about average height, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. She was wearing a pair of tight-fitting black jeans and a light purple polo shirt.
"I understand." Shields companion replied, wishing feverently she had taken her mother up on her offer to pay for a class in "the art of conversation".
"My name is Kate. This is my brother, Sean, and my girlfriend, Emily."
Sean (who looked enough like his sister to be her twin), took the strangers hand, and, in an attempt to appear dashing, kissed the back of it.
"It is my extreme pleasure to meet you."
He had the oily, likeable voice of a good used car salesman. He winked and waggled his eyebrows, which most assuredly must have charmed many of his former girlfriends. The stranger nodded politely, extracted her hand from his gentle grip, and turned her gaze on Emily. Emily smiled shyly and remained standing behind Kate, her hands gripping the ends of her girlfriends shirt. She had light brown hair, pulled back, and possibly brown eyes, but she wouldnt look directly at anyone. Her slender form was encased in a loose black skirt and a large white t-shirt.
The so- called Chosen one is about to speak when Gareth griped her shoulder tightly once more and propelled her past the alter and toward the door that lead to the priests personal rooms.
"Wait a second," she said as she stopped and twisted around in his grip. "Ill see you all later." She directed her words toward the entire group. The look they gave was not very encouraging and she was about to ask them what was wrong when Gareth pushed her through the vestibule door.
"What the hell was that all about," She asked him as she shook his hand off her shoulder.
"Patience, Chosen One, all will be revealed soon." His tone was calm, knowing, and utterly infuriating.
She looked up into his dark, handsome face, and the peace she saw there drained the anger away. For some strange reason she trusted this man, and this trust made her wary.
"Come, Father is waiting for us in the back study."
All she could do was follow and hope that her death was still the one she expected.
To Be Continued ..