Home > Dragon Shield (Guardians of Chaos Book 2)

Dragon Shield (Guardians of Chaos Book 2)
Author: C.D. Gorri

 

Prologue

 

 

200 years ago…

The cold, gray walls of the dark rectangular room seemed far too close for comfort as Holley slowly blinked into consciousness. Her head pounded. Pain reverberated throughout her entire body.

How did she come to find herself in this place? Memories tried to break through her bruised mind, but they were foggy. She heard voices whispering around her, but they stopped as her eyes gradually opened.

“What is happening? Where am I?”

“Quiet, heathen spawn,” someone hissed followed by a vicious slap to her face.

Holly gasped at the explosion of pain in her cheek. Frightened did not begin to describe how she felt. It was dark, too dark for her to see. But then a light came, a torch, she thought and squinted against the sudden onslaught to her sensitive eyes.

“Ah, the Witch awakens?”

Holley stilled at the sound of the one voice guaranteed to terrify her. It could not be, but it was. Preacher Milton hovered over her with a lantern held high. The glow from the candle was bright, hot too, as he held it close to her face. But that was not why she trembled.

It was his angry pale eyes that glared at her from beneath the darkened hood of his cloak. The man who’d hit her was sneering beside him. There was something off about his color and his movements.

His other followers stayed back so she could not make out their faces. A shame, she thought, she would love to have names to go with the hexes she was determined to rain down on their foolish heads.

The townspeople hated her and for no real reason. They did not know her. Never took the time. But why would they? She was half savage in their eyes.

Tainted. Unclean. Holley had heard it all. She’d learned not to care, to be unaffected by the stares of those too arrogant to ask questions and too ignorant to listen to the answers.

The fact she was a Witch only made matters worse. Of course, she did not advertise her powers. That would not be wise at all. Granny Rose taught her better than that.

Oh no. Granny.

“Why am I here? Where is Grandmother?”

“Your grandmother has been hanged for your crimes,” he spat, “and since the fires could not take you, Devil-worshipper, this shall be your prison till you die of starvation or the air runs out!”

He opened his arms wide and multiple lanterns along the walls flared to life, manned by his followers. Holley struggled to sit up, horrified when she realized she couldn’t.

“You brought me here? To the forest Keep?” she asked, shocked at the preacher’s gall.

This place was ancient and sacred to her father’s people. Though her dealings with the Lenape tribe were few and far between, she knew the stories. Heard of the strange supernatural beings that had built this place many hundreds of years before Europeans had come to live on this side of the world.

The Keep had been built long ago by a secret order of Witches and other creatures. Or at least that was what she’d been told.

Holley played on the grounds surrounding the enormous stone structure when she was a child. She’d visited the castle with her Granny Rose to meet with her paternal grandfather. Traditionally, Lenape children went to the mother’s tribe, but because her mother was a settler, Holley had been all but shunned.

Only her Grandfather Katonah had agreed to meet with the half-European child to see if she possessed the magic of his line. That had been a cold and eye-opening lesson for young Holley.

Grandfather Katonah had met with her seven times after that day. He’d explained in stunted terms about the magic of their people, and Holley had listened. The old man had died some years ago now, but Granny Rose made sure she did not forget his lessons.

Holley had been doubly blessed, or cursed depending on how you looked at it, with magic on both sides. Granny Rose did not possess any particular magical talents, but her mother had. She’d spent her own childhood listening and learning how to make salves, healing balms, potions and the like.

Two very different traditions and customs, but both told the story of who she was.

Holley Mount. Native. Witch. Settler. But she was more than that. Holley was a granddaughter and she had loved her Granny Rose with all her heart. Sadness filled her chest and she sobbed quietly for a moment.

Enough child, it’s not the time to be lost in memories, a familiar voice whispered to her.

Holley shook her head. Granny was right. She needed to find a way out of this situation. Her eyes scanned the room, but aside from Preacher Milton who was giving orders to his men who seemed to smear paint or was that blood on the walls, there was nothing of any use.

Beaten and chained to a stone slab deep in the belly of the castle in the pine barrens, Holley was truly trapped. Terror eked its way up her spine. That this place would now be her tomb became quite clear. She struggled against her bonds, but to no avail.

“You cannot escape,” Milton smiled wickedly in her direction then nodded at his hooded brethren.

“They’re writing a spell!”

“Yes,” he hissed and lifted a quill as if he were toasting her.

Preached Milton finished a symbol with a flourish of his wrist, “Do you recognize this cast? No? Oh well, still, I thought an eagle feather suited the occasion,” he waved the quill still dripping fresh blood and she winced as droplets hit her face.

Holley suddenly felt as if she’d fallen through ice on a lake and was submerged in some freezing, dark depths she could not see. Her teeth chattered, the cold painful to her, and she screamed her agony.

“The searing pain you feel would be the blood connection you now have with this spell, but you should know that Witch,” Milton spat the words at her as if they too could harm.

But what they did was reveal a very terrible truth. The blood they used to cast their magic was hers. Blood magic was the darkest of all arts, Holley knew this and struggled harder against her chains.

“I have harmed no one! You are supposed to be a priest!”

“Your very existence is a harm. You are an abomination and since you will not confess-”

“Confess what? I cannot change my circumstance of birth,” she pleaded, but the hatred in his eyes chilled her to the marrow.

“Can’t you? Pity. Then you will die here.”

Holley closed her eyes and pleaded her case to the great Creator. During one of her grandfather’s visits, she’d learned how her ancestors spoke to their kin through the veil between life and death. he’d taught her how to access that plane.

Pity she never practiced. Relying instead on her healing skills to put food on their table. Poor Granny Rose was gone now, and Holley would follow her into the void. But she was not ready. Not yet.

Life was strenuous within the settlement of Puritans who hated the likes of her. Holley was shunned and treated as an outcast for her tanned skin and black hair. They had tried to tell her that her Puritan mother had been raped by a savage and died in childbirth as punishment for not taking her own life before she could bring her daughter into the world.

She understood it was all lies. Granny Rose and her grandfather had taught her that. She even suspected why Preacher Milton hated her so. Though it did not make this any easier.

“You cannot kill me because my mother did not love you,” she screamed as the cold began to seep inside her very bones.

“She should have killed herself before you were born! Devil’s whore!”

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