from "Vynasha" (working title)
Without the advantage of sight, her other senses picked up other things she might not have noticed otherwise. On the other side of the door she could hear the heavy padding of paws and claw tips clicking against the stone floor. The unmistakable breathing of a creature taunted her, hollow in its massive chest.
For a moment it sounded as though the creature had moved past her cell. Perhaps it had not picked up on her scent after all? Hesitantly she stepped closer to the door until she was but an arms stretch before the heavy door. Her fingers grazed the damp wood and a pair of golden eyes appeared instantly before her.
Vynasha screamed and stumbled back when the beast’s breath filtered through the bars and caressed her skin. Her scream died into a hoarse croak in the back of her throat. She watched as the door began to rattle and shake and the beast’s too-knowing eyes narrowed. With greater force it began to pound on the door’s frame. Soon the rocks it was attached began to give way.
She tripped over something hard and narrow and fell into a pile of what could be nothing but bones. Her scream died in her throat when the rocks cave din and broke into shards which bounced and sliced open her cheek. The beast roared as it rushed in over the wreckage and pinned her in with its four limbs. Fur covered her with its sweet musky scent and liquid escaped its jowls as it bent its neck lower.
Keeping her eyes clenched shut, Vynasha wondered if this was how it would end, if her quest to find her brother had been doomed from the beginning and this moment her penance for living in the past.
The beast breathed over her face and then something hot, slick and wet brushed over her bloody cheek. She prepared herself for the horrifying moment its teeth ripped open her face. And for some sick and unthinkable reason, she opened her eyes to watch.
Its eyes were yellow and yet eerily like a man’s, though it was certainly beastly. The way it looked at her now made her shiver and break into pieces from within. The look in the monster’s eyes shifted from hunger to curiosity and then pain.
Vynasha gaped as her body was carefully lifted off the rocks. The creature limped as it used its other three legs to avoid the rubble and draw them into a clean corner. The stone still smelled moldy and damp and the creature’s fur carried the perfume of death. But she couldn’t deny the relief she felt when it curled its massive body into a ball and draped her across its chest.
Together they lay, with its claws pressing unthreateningly against her back and its protruding upper fangs in her tangled hair. She would have thought it impossible to fall asleep at a time like this. But she knew Wyvar would be some time in fetching the dungeon master. It would be best to keep the beast calm until they could find a way to slip her from its clutches.
So she whispered in the darkness, “Thank you.” She froze, hoping her voice would not startle it. Instead a low rumble began from deep in its chest and filled her with courage. “You are lucky I’m not my brother. Ceddrych would have tried to spear you on sight. He was always going on about slaying dragons and monsters when we were younger…”
The beast huffed what could have been a sigh, if it were a man.
“I went along with his dreams, not because I believed in them so much as I wanted to go with him, wherever he went. We could have been happy, running away from our valley and seeing the world. Things turned out quite differently than he expected. I wonder what he would have thought of this place.”
Tears threatened to ruin her calm, so she forced her limbs to uncoil and her heart to slow. The beast’s arm around her waist was heavy but not oppressive and almost like one of the bearskins left behind in her cottage.
“I wonder if he really is dead,” she finally admitted aloud. Bitterly, she added, “I wonder if this whole journey was not created, just to ruin my chances at ever seeing him again.” Her tears fell and the beast gave a keening whine. Her fingers reached up to stroke its pelt and this was how she found herself taking comfort from and comforting a being of nightmare.
Soon the pounding in her chest subsided and then she felt a pressing weight fall over her conscience. It was everything she could do to keep her eyes peeled and so much easier to sleep.