Hello! This is the first chapter of my story Dark Light. I spent a lot of time revising and editing, so I hope you enjoy it! PLEASE read and review, I take all types of contrsuctive (aka nice) critism, it would mean a lot to me and if you have any questions, ask them when you review. I will have a FAQ section in my profile with the answer to the questions and so without further ado (sorry if i spelled it wrong) here is the first chaper of "Dark Light"


Chapter One

Disease

Kenna laid a cold rag against the little boy's feverish head. His cheeks were flushed scarlet and sweat dripped down his pale, sickly brow. The once young, innocent expression that had always been upon his face was twisted in anguish as an unfair battle against sickness raged inward. Even with the temporary disappearance of the sun and heat, the bitter tang of disease was so strong in the air that even the acute sense of smell that a human nose held could detect it easily.

Kenna sighed as she watched the little boy's frail body convulse time after time, fighting for his life; a fight so many others had already lost.

Weeks before a strange sickness had plagued Kenna's secluded village of Kongenioa. It had begun with a few of the elders, a few coughs and slight fevers, nothing out of the ordinary, but within a few days symptoms showed that this could have been something out of a story told every full moon, something meant to scare the disobedient little children into listening. It was something that nobody could handle as it spread from victim to victim and held them hostage in its unforgiving grasp

Not a night had passed in the last month that hacking coughs could not be heard, shattering the night air, from within neighboring houses or the sobbing of a mother who could do nothing but watch as their child's life slipped painfully away. Fevers raged to a point where it hurt to place a hand upon their head, and agony lashed like a snake at nearly every part of one's body until their screams could be heard during the day echoing back from the mountains. Some hallucinated; talking to invisible beings that only they could see while others fell into deep sleeps from which they would not awake. Every day there were faint whispers of a new case or death of a family member or friend. The village was suffering, there was no denying it, and Kenna wasn't sure how much longer they could last.

Suddenly, the little boy sat up gasping. His chest heaved and his eyes were wild with uncontained fear. The rag went flying off his head to land on the arid ground, throwing up a cloud of dust.

"What's the matter Gille?" asked Kenna gently.

"The, the Yvol'co b-b-burned the village down, and, and took my m-mother!" panted Gille, looking around as though he expected the fierce warriors of the rival mountain village to come pouring into the tiny hut.

"No they didn't, the village is safe and so is your mother. She is sleeping soundly in the next room. You just had a bad dream, why don't you go back to sleep?" soothed Kenna, patting the boy's shaking arm.

As if he hadn't heard the warning, he looked over his shoulder, at the door and then at Kenna, his eyes following the same path until he fully realized that nothing had happened. He gulped the humid air trying to calm down though his arms continued to shake until they couldn't support him any longer and he fell back onto the cot. He said nothing.

Kenna tucked him back in and returned the cold rag to his forehead, pausing to brush the grimy dirt from the torn cloth. She had lied about his mother who had died from the sickness two days ago. She felt bad about lying to him, but she knew he would sleep better knowing his mom was safe.

Kenna was worried about Gille though. His supposed dream about the Yvol'co savaging the village only proved that the disease was pulling him closer to death. She didn't know if she could bear it if he died; he was her only friend.

Kenna might as well have been an outcast from her village. Years ago her mother had fallen in love with a warrior from the Yvol'co tribe, her father. They saw each other often until the leaders of each of the villages found out and forbade them to ever meet again. But Kenna's parents ignored what they thought was merely a warning and continued meeting in secret whenever they could. Then, Kenna's mother discovered she was to have a baby, and when Kenna finally arrived the villagers were outraged. Rumors about casting them out of the village and into the mountains floated from person to person. Frightened, her mother fled leaving Kenna behind on the doorstep of her best friend.

A few days later, a mass of Yvol'co warriors attacked Kongenioa, and although the warriors of their village were able to ward them off, the price was high. Many were fatally injured; houses were burned to ashes so that the acrid smoke stained the sky for days to come, and the citizens were in a state of panic. Everyone blamed Kenna's mother for betraying Kongenioa's location to the Yvol'co, and sixteen years later time and a new location had done nothing to diminish the villager's memory.

Now Kenna was the victim of vicious rumors spread by children and adults alike. People glared and hissed insults at her as she walked past, children played cruel tricks on her and although she tried to ignore them their resentment stung like splinters of ice. She had never met either of her parents so she couldn't defend them and no matter how hard she worked it seemed she could never earn the villagers' trust. Yet, despite the torment she went through, Kenna's heart stayed proud and strong.

The only people who would accept her were little Gille who insisted in his little way to others that nothing was wrong with talking to Kenna, and her mother's best friend, Katrina, who had graciously taken Kenna in as an infant. Katrina had always treated Kenna as one of her own children and though she had never asked, Kenna willing worked hard to earn her keep and repay Katrina for her hospitality.

Kenna started as the small fire burning in a rock-rimmed pit in the middle of the room popped and the last log collapsed into a pile of glowing embers. She pulled her thin frame out of the crude wooden chair she been sitting upon, and placed a hand-full of twigs on the embers. Crouching down, she blew gently. The dry sticks took immediately and soon a small blaze filled the cottage with a warm flickering light.

Sitting back down with her bare feet tucked under her, Kenna stared absently into the flames. For a moment Kenna thought she saw a dragon sitting among the dancing flames, recognizing the huge lizard-like creature from the legends the village story-teller told every full moon in the light of a huge bonfire. Its mottled green and purple scales shimmered in non-existent sunlight, smoke curling up from its delicate nostrils. The creature's head rested on its scaly hide and it emitted a low sorrow-filled growl before the image faded.

Kenna shook her head, rubbing her temples. She had had a long day of traveling from home to home caring for ungrateful villagers who had fallen under the sickness' grasp. Besides, the race of dragons had long since disappeared from their land of Armaegala. Some even went as far as to say that dragons never existed at all. If anything, seeing visions of mythical creatures in a fire only showed how exhausted Kenna was. She just hoped she wasn't catching the disease too. So far it seemed like she was the only one who hadn't yet fallen ill though she knew it could only be a matter of time.

Reclining back in the creaky, wooden chair Kenna willed herself not to fall asleep. Humming softly, she looked out the un-paned window and followed the moon's unwavering path as it rose steadily towards the center of the night sky. The stars sparkled brightly in the inky color of the night, the moon glowing a pale yellow fringed with orange. The serene sight calmed Kenna's brittle mood, but despite Kenna's efforts, her head began to nod and when she wasn't paying attention, her eyes slipped closed and her breathing became even and shallow.

Before her eyes swam the dragon, the same one she had seen in the fire. This time though it was airborne, gliding on silent wings through a light blue sky. The creature's wings were immense. The thin, translucent membrane was a light, spring green with black veins criss-crossing in a complicated network of intricate lines. Its mouth was open in what appeared to be a smile, revealing rows of pointed white teeth. The dragon suddenly swept into a steep dive, almost crashing into the ground before gracefully leveling out skimming low to the ground, its black claws just brushing the grass.

The dream faded leaving dark clouds and a hollow emptiness, but then another picture formed in Kenna's sleeping mind. Now she was standing in a cool dark space, a cavern by the feel of it. She couldn't see anything, but the free flowing air told her that that ceiling was high above her head and the walls fanned out far to the right and left. Suddenly, a blinding light flared up, making her eyes screw up against the brightness. When it dimmed, Kenna opened her eyes a slit and then wide as she took in the scene. She was standing in the dead center of the room. As she had predicted black rock made a roof infinitely high above her and she could just make out the walls on either side and as far as she could tell there wasn't any way out or in.

On the left, wisps of what seemed like torn shadow wound in slow moving tendrils and made that side of the cave dark and cold. Kenna reached out with one hand and trailed her fingers through the smoky coils. Blackness and twisted, dark thoughts filled her and she felt her body temperature drop dangerously low. She shuddered so hard her teeth clacked together and she wrapped her arms around her torso tightly. The minute her hand was back with her she felt normal again. On the right side, thick shafts of shimmering yellow-white light sparkled like crystal and cast dancing colors to swirl through the air. Kenna's curiosity got the better of her and she left her fingers break the steady light. This time happiness and clear feelings bubbled up in her and warmth spread through from her heart to the tips of her fingers. She didn't want to take her hand away this time. She took a step into the light and felt it go through her, making her face, skin, and eyes illuminate with pleasure. Kenna laughed for the first time in weeks and twirled slowly through the brilliant warmth. She basked in her contentment for a few minutes and then slowed to a stop.

Even though she had a feeling about what would happen, Kenna stepped through the middle and into the dark side of the room. Suddenly the shadows constricted and enveloped her in a torrent of wind. Her eyes grew dim and gray and her heart slowed to a sluggish rate. Her thoughts grew depressed and the floor tipped precariously to the side. Kenna stumbled and felt sick. By chance, Kenna made it back to the dead center and everything evened out and felt normal again. Kenna breathed in the cool air until her mind cleared and her heart pumped at a regular pace. Then the image faded like fog in a sunlit morning and Kenna was left with the mild flow of a dreamless sleep.

A creak echoed in the small hut making Kenna sit up abruptly. Blinking rapidly Kenna rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Suddenly, she remembered where she was and leapt out of the chair, racing on light feet over to Gille's cot. Putting her head close to his chest, she listened. There was nothing, not even a whisper of breath. His eyes remained closed, their lids purple tinged, his pale lips pressed into a frown, his skin sallow and dry and his hands stone cold. Kenna turned away, her eyes welling up with tears. A single drop ran down her cheek and fell into her palm. She couldn't do anything to stem the steady flow of salty tears once the first had broken; she couldn't even wipe them away. She just stood there and cried. She tried to force her shaking hand brush them away furiously, a thorn of anger stabbing at her grief.

Was she destined to be alone and friendless? No one accepted her in the village and now her only friend had slipped through her fingers. Why couldn't she have taken Gille's place, died instead of him, to escape the pain of her forsaken life, if only to let him live the life he should have had? Then a small, shuddering gasp came from behind her. Kenna turned around and saw the very shallow rise and fall of Gille's chest and a smile broke through the fall of tears. A sigh of relief pushed past her lips and more tears came of pure happiness when the realization that Gille was still alive finally hit her. She walked slowly over to the bed and took his cold, shaking hand in hers, rubbing her thumb back and forth. His eyes fluttered open briefly and a tiny smile pushed the corners of his mouth up before he slipped back into unconsciousness.

Kenna took the rag off his head and placed her hand on his brow. Heat radiated off his skin in waves burning Kenna's own hand. She pulled her hand away quickly, and dunked the rag in a bucket of frigid water sitting under the table. Wringing it out, she replaced it back on his boiling forehead.

She turned away, intending to sit vigil for Gille, and this time without falling asleep, but a roaring fire in place of the small flame of before stopped her. Stoking the fire was a woman with a tattered shawl draped over her prominent bony shoulders. Straightening up, the light revealed slightly hunched shoulders, a tired face lined with out of age wrinkles, and sad brown eyes that told the horrors of the time she was living in. Thick brown hair flecked with gray was pulled back in a loose bun, and a ragged white dress hung on a malnourished frame. Her small delicate hands wrung together nervously and when she spoke her voice rasped in her throat as though it hadn't been used in many days.

"I'm sorry if I woke you Kenna. I thought you and Gille would be more comfortable with a fire. The other had burned out." she whispered.

"No, no it's fine Katrina. I hadn't intended on falling asleep anyway. I'm glad you woke me. And thank you for fixing the fire, its warmth is welcome."

"You really should sleep Kenna. You have had a long day and you need to keep your strength up. I don't want you falling ill too. To be honest I am quite surprised you have made it this far without the slightest cough considering how many others stronger than you have caught it and died within a few days. And I promised myself as well as your mother that I would keep you safe…" Katrina broke off wheezing, her whole body shaking as she struggled to regain breath.

Kenna hurried over and guided Katrina to the chair.

"Really Katrina I am fine, and it seems like you need the rest more than me. Besides, I can't bear to leave Gille even for a second. I, I am too afraid something is going to happen to him." argued Kenna.

"No Kenna. You must go to bed." said Katrina, her voice more forceful now. "I will watch over Gille for the rest of the night and I promise to wake you if anything happens, but now you must sleep."

Katrina rose from the chair, fixing Kenna in a piercing stare. Kenna gave in.

"Alright then, I'll do what you want, but I will hold you to your word. You must wake me if anything happens even if I have only just laid my head down."

"I promise." said Katrina, taking Kenna by the arm and leading her over to the bed, a pile of straw with a white sheet placed over it. Furniture and tools were more often than not very elaborate in the households of Kongenioa. The village prided its carpenters, smiths, and weavers, but since the disease had swept through, many things were being reduced to makeshift items that could be readied and taken down in a hurry.

"Now enough, it is time for you to sleep, but before you do you might find it satisfying to eat this." From inside the apron covering her dress Katrina took an elppa, a round yellow-red fruit that grew in a surplus around Kongenioa. It was often the main ingredient in different courses of food and it was always served at celebration feasts. Lately, however, it was rarely seen since the elppa orchards had gone untended when the farmers fell ill.

Kenna gratefully accepted the fruit. Katrina embraced her and planted a quick kiss on her forehead.

"Good night, little one." She murmured something else Kenna couldn't quite make out, but walked away before Kenna could ask what she had said.

Kenna sank down on to the makeshift bed, letting the wave of tiredness she had been fighting wash over her. She nibbled on the soft flesh of the elppa savoring its sweetness and letting the juice dribble down her parched throat.

Yawning, she placed the core of the fruit on to the dirt floor and lay back on the bed. It was hard to find a comfortable position with the coarse straw poking her through the thin cloth, but eventually weariness caught up to her and she fell into a fitful sleep.


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