Maladrid - [Tales Of Dominhydor: Book One], page 1
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Double Dragon Publishing
Copyright ©2010 by DDP
First published in Double Dragon eBooks, 2010
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Copyright (C) 2010 Jessica McHugh
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Double Dragon eBooks, a division of Double Dragon Publishing Inc., Markham, Ontario Canada.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the permission in writing from Double Dragon Publishing.
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A Double Dragon eBook
Double Dragon Publishing, Inc.
PO Box 54016
1-5762 Highway 7 East
Markham, Ontario L3P 7Y4 Canada
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A DDP First Edition October 15, 2010
Book Layout and
Cover Art by Deron Douglas
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Tales of Dominhydor: Book One
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For Daniel Morgan whose inspiration was priceless.
and Michael Young who always gave me the perfect beat.
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[Back to Table of Contents]
He is dreaming tonight.
Maladrid, a young man brimming with the verve fantastic, is dreaming a new life tonight. His body has fallen numb to the world that surrounds him, but the night’s sweet reverie has opened his grateful mind unto a new world. With a renaissance of hope inspiring, he feels the kiss of the dream wind, hears the purr of the urging ocean, and revels in the prospects of the evening’s offerings. With his head upon the pillow and his body upon the bed, Maladrid, asleep and yet finally awake, sets sail to face the future through the portentous waters of the Syr Sea.
“If there is adventure to be met, I will be the one to meet it face to face,” he declared against the slap of the wind.
He raised the sail of his small ship and watched it balloon in the anger of the sea’s breath. The vessel pushed against the gale as the waves splashed high and threw salty water into his eyes, and as the sea pounded his boat with its watery fists, Maladrid heard his foundation begin to split. The boat became heavy as water spilled over the sides and poured through cracks in the frame, and the Syr tossed him carelessly until finally forcing him down to the sopping planks. His stomach turned with the waves, but his face remained one of fierce resolve as he struggled to hold onto the bucking boat. He flipped over onto his back and closed his eyes; the sun broke past the clouds, and when it flooded his cheeks, the warmth stirred him to smile. The simple and sudden sun burnt away his sickness, and his fear became nothing more than tiny liquid beads on his forehead. But the sun also touched the pegs and bolts of the deck, and when his fingers grazed the scalding iron bits, he yelped and though he tried to jump to his feet, the intense motion of the waves held him down. The helm spun wildly out of control, and Maladrid scrambled to reach it, but the water that flooded over the sides of the ship knocked his feet out from under him. The encroaching sea carried him across the deck and slammed him into the mast, but with defiant resolve ablaze, Maladrid ground his teeth, dug his nails into the drenched wood, and pulled himself up to challenge the rebellious waters.
“You are no match for me, little one,” hissed the sea. “I tear the mountains. I kiss the skies. I am the destruction and the rebirth. Make no mistake, Maladrid: I will be your destroyer.”
The water surged around his shins and tugged at him incessantly, but with his feet steadfast, he grinned at his victory over the water’s strength, and to prove his own, he began pushing through the sloshing ocean that had formed upon the deck. But when he was no more than three feet from the madly spinning helm, the sopping planks beneath him gave way. Maladrid’s leg plunged down through the warped wood and became trapped between two of the jagged floorboards, and no matter how he pulled or twisted himself, he only succeeded in slicing his leg from ankle to knee. He stretched to reach the helm with his fingers splayed and wriggling, and though he was only inches away, centimeters perhaps, his proximity did him little good. But as he stared at the wheel and marveled at how the ceaseless spinning caused the wood to lose its solidity, he became mesmerized by the whirring and the strange tune hidden beneath the drone. The soft song enraptured his mind and took hold of his voice, causing him to hum along, and though he knew he had to break free of the melodious spell, his wounded leg throbbed with the rhythm of the music and he found himself too enthralled by it to move. But then Maladrid realized that the music was not some strange manufacture of his mind; in fact, it was coming from the cliffs that lay before him. His body began shifting back and forth of its own volition, swaying to the swell of the music and the haunting voice of the cliffs.
“Do not wander, here or yonder,” the voice sang, “unless you have some time to ponder.”
He became lulled into the center of the singing until he felt so at one with it that he could see the music dipping and swirling around him. Above and below, the musical notes skipped past his eyes and ears and chuckled melodiously. They shimmered in pastel hues as they danced past and encircled his body, but when he reached out to touch them, they giggled and bounced away with a sparkling trail left behind.
Suddenly the ship jerked, the wheel stopped spinning, and as the ship plowed itself into sandy shores, the boards around Maladrid’s leg snapped completely; he was launched over the port side and landed on the beach like a sack of rocks. Darkness briefly took him, but the burning salt water in his wounds quickly brought him around again.
“Neglectful boy!” bellowed the sea. “Man your ship; if you are a man, that is. You are far from home and have passed borders that your people very rarely dare to cross.”
“Where am I?” he asked dozily.
“Foolish boy! You are in Ladyndal: the westmost land in Dominhydor. Perhaps I was wrong to assume that you had some device inside your head in which knowledge is stored and processed.”
“If it’s a brain, then it’s a brain. And if it is, use it.”
With that, the sea flipped a wave at Maladrid and crashed away from the shore. Maladrid looked his devastated ship up and down in desperation, but the collision with land had utterly destroyed the vessel. Water poured from gaping holes on the port side, the mainmast was broken beyond repair, and the tattered sail flipped defeated in the wind. For what seemed like hours, he sat silently and stared out across the calm water that had recently been so violent and thought that perhaps the storm was meant for him alone. It had been far too confined within its destruction to be just some passing tempest. As he pondered, the sun started to fade and dusk rose with colors that streaked the sky. But as comforting as the colors of dusk were, they were not enough to quell Maladrid’s rising fear. He felt doomed in his isolation and because the land was completely new to him, he was extremely disoriented by every unrecognizable detail. He had no reason to move on and no reason to turn back, and, in truth, he had no conceivable way of doing either. Alone in the strange wilderness, he felt like some pebble to be kicked around by a cruel wind, pulled and tossed without choice in the matter. His hair was still damp from the sea and when he shook away the excess water, his disheveled sandy locks dangled over his cobalt eyes. He bowed his head, and as a tear slowly rolled down his cheek, cool air kissed his skin and set chills throughout his body. But as the wind whistled around him, it carried another song from the cliffs that put his heart at rest.
“Sleep yourself up to us.
The new day will bring you to us.
Find us in your sleep.
We will bring the night so deep.”
The music swelled in its dulcet beauty, and as he gazed upon the rocky masses towering above him and singing him into relaxation, he saw the clouds sailing high and white above them. They flew like billowy birds through the dusky sky and reminded Maladrid of stories he’d heard about the Colc: large ivory creatures that changed their shapes as they sailed the firmament looking like snakes or ships or even simple clouds. One never knew for sure whether they were looking at some creation of nature or the Colc just pretending to be one.
By the time the music finally faded, Maladrid felt quite at ease, although every muscle was sore and every inch of flesh ached. He ran his fingernails over his scalp and sighed at the painful pleasure, and when he stretched his arms and back, he let out a growling yawn that would have made a lion sheepish. He walked despondently back to his boat, propped his foot on a plank of wood that had bowed out from the port side, and pushed himself up and over the ledge, and when he tumbled onto the deck, he found it still pooled with sloshing water. His clothes were strewn about the berth, torn to shreds, and as he searched through his battered belongings, he found them all oddly foreign. It was then that he thought back on the harbor of his homeland and found its name and image absent from his memory, but wherever it was, he was sure that it was warm and soft, and that it cradled him in times of darkness. He retrieved his satchel and canteen from the wreckage and hurled himself back onto the soggy shore, but when he withdrew his map, he found it ruined and the world upon it destroyed. He sat mystified, squinting at the sopping bits of canvas that continued to disintegrate as he moved it through his fingers until he ultimately threw it aside in frustration. He took a swig from his canteen, and the crisp, fresh water of home tasted glorious as it ran down his throat and washed away the salt of the Syr.
What was left of the sun had fled from the sky, and soon the land was dark and whispering. Strange songs danced from the sea and from the cliffs above as Maladrid stared up at the army of fiery stars in the inky sky. The sudden night sat heavy upon him and forced him down into the sand, and once his eyelids drooped and his cheek melted into the beach, sleep came like a thankful gust that coursed his body and swept him away to safe and familiar places.
When day first struck, it shone as a mere splinter of light across Maladrid’s face. The stripe of heat stirred him but did not open his stubborn eyes, and as if in disapproval, large rays of sunlight burst across his body and completely disconnected him from sleep. He groaned and buried his face in his arm to shield his eyes from the light, but he just couldn’t conquer the sun. Dried sand clung to his face and eyelashes, but when he brushed it away, the back of his hand grazed against a surprising texture. He gasped in amazement at the verdant plain of downy grass that surrounded him and thought himself still dreaming. But when he walked toward the sound of the sea and reached the edge of the earth, he looked down upon the beach where he’d fallen asleep and knew that it was no dream. He saw his broken boat, he saw the ocean kicking around it, and he saw scraps of his map still fluttering across the shore. Somehow he’d climbed the cliffs during the night, but he had no recollection of the climb and no concept of how he could have achieved it. Bewildered, he stood and stared at his dilapidated vessel, wondering how such a marvel of progression had befallen him.
“I hope this isn’t a pattern in this place,” Maladrid said. “I don’t wish to awaken in the clouds come tomorrow morning.”
Maladrid gazed into the stretching distance and saw nothing but terrifying unfamiliarity. He sat down on the edge of the cliff and sipped from his canteen as he watched the dreadful sea crash against his battered ship. His leg seared as he wetted his fingers and wiped away the excess blood that had caked upon his calf, but as bolts of pain shot up his leg, he knew that he would not last long without treatment. He had to keep going; he had to find help.
When Maladrid began to walk, he proceeded in a disoriented fashion, but since he had no idea in which direction to head, he saw no other way to go about his travels. He had no experience in such matters: he was no soldier; he was no tracker. He had never even passed the borders of his small world and was more than a little intimidated by the happenstance of his arrival in Ladyndal. But as he progressed over the field of green, he caught the strange tune again: the luring, sweeping music that took hold of his body and drew him forward as if in thrall. He smiled as the colors billowed around him in melodic cadence, but he fell back from the musical hues in fear when they began shifting into a structure and acquired a shape similar to Maladrid’s own. There were no facial features to the creature composed of twisting colors, but the convergence of shades in its skin that occurred at the peaks in the music was enough to draw Maladrid’s eye, and though it wore no raiment, a crown of shimmering, rainbow-colored stars sat majestically upon its head.
“Who are you?” Maladrid asked in both fear and wonder.
“Dyngyli,” it sang in reply.
“What do you want?”
“Why do think that I want something?”
“Why else would you be here?” Maladrid replied.
The creature laughed melodically and the color within its belly bounced with each lovely chuckle.
“Welcome to Ladyndal, soldier. You’d best to get used to such appearances. You’ll see far stranger things than I,” it said, and abruptly vanished.
The vibrant being had left no trace of its presence or to where it had fled, and though he’d been slightly unnerved by the creature, he had enjoyed the company, brief though it was. He’d enjoyed speaking aloud to someone besides himself, but once again, he stood alone in Ladyndal, and his solitude made him shiver for the things to come.
Unfortunately for Maladrid, the sudden and mysterious journey to the top of the cliffs had separated him from the few supplies he’d salvaged from his ship. His satchel only contained three slices of bread and his canteen was only about half full. He had no weapon, something he feared he would need, and without a map, he had no idea where he was heading and no clue of how to get there. But somehow he managed to maintain his composure in spite of his fear. The weather was mild and the cool wind that rushed his face every few minutes calmed him as it whipped through his humble garments. They were his only garments as well, but though the gray tunic and baggy olive pants were adequate at present, he constantly feared another tempest.
For hours, Maladrid marched without the slightest change in his surroundings or anyone crossing his path.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
He looked around wildly, searching for the statement’s source, but seeing no one around, he decided that it was simply his hunger causing him to hear things, shrugged his shoulders, and started to bite again.
“Stop that immediately!”
Maladrid swung around and peered in every possible direction. He even looked under his feet, but there was nothing to be found; at least, nothing that could have spoken. Sighing, slightly upset that he was hallucinating voices, he breathed twice on the apple and rubbed it on his shirt.
“What are you doing? You just knocked over the table!”
His jaw dropped as a small vermicular creature poked out of a hole in the purple fruit and slid two transparent eyelids over each glassy orb as it blinked slowly. Its long thick body was covered with white matted hair that spiked across its back as it inched forward onto Maladrid’s open palm, but the wiry bristles tickled Maladrid’s hand and caused him to flinch and drop the fruit.