Chapter 3

Written by: Donna McTavish

She had been walking since day break when she came to a trickle of water seeping from an outcrop of glistening green rock. She cupped her hands and drank greedily and then splashed the icy water over her dirty face. She knew she was going to die soon, alone in the mountains, if she didn’t find food. A small part of her welcomed the thought. It would be a joy to see her mother again and a relief to end the pain that nagged every part of her body. Dilara smiled as she lay down on a slab of rock warmed from the sun. She closed her eyes. She was ready. The dripping of water was the only sound as she floated into sleep.

When she turned her head she wasn’t surprised to see an old woman sitting in the last patch of sunlight unpacking a blackened cloth. “A piece of bread?” she said and Dilara sprang up from where she was lying and went to her. In the bundle was a loaf of dark bread and a small piece of waxy cheese. The sharp smell made Dilara’s nose burn. There was also a double edged knife with a wooden handle and a long thick blade, its edges licked with flames intricately carved into the silver-grey metal. Dilara had seen carvings like that before on the sword that the village elder carried on feast days. The old woman cut the bread and cheese into equal pieces and handed one half to Dilara. Then she pulled a piece of flint and a handful of dry grass from the bundle. She made three strikes on the rock with the knife blade and a small spark flickered into life. The old woman placed the tiny bundle of fire within a ring of stone and nurtured it until its warmth wrapped around Dilara. “Sleep now, dear one, and then return. All will go well for you.”  As Dilara watched with heavy eyes, she wiped the blade as lovingly as a mother would tend her child and wrapped it in a blue cloth. She adjusted her shawl and all the while Dilara heard her muttering in a low sing-song voice.

The dripping water was a dagger of ice when Dilara woke. She lay still for a moment gazing at the grey sky tinged with gold as the sun spread its long fingers across the cold mountain. She wondered at her dream. Many times her mother had told her stories of the spirits that appear in sleep. She said they were wise and kind and so Dilara accepted that the old woman had come to guide her. She felt her broken body was healed and her hunger was gone. She was still alone but she no longer felt lonely.

A new purpose imbued her. Her fate was not to die on this mountain but to return to her village. She did not know what she would find but she was not frightened.

Comments

Donna has introduced a strand of an idea into this serial that was perhaps meandering around aimlessly, albeit with good descriptive work but no real plot. Serials have to get up and go from the start as there are only 10 chapters of 500 words. The introduction of a dream is very hard to merge smoothly into any story and publishers frown on them. This dream sequence, however, really works well and gives us the reason the heroine is going to do what she does next. I especially loved the way the end of the dream merged back into the main story. It's the way the first two sentences wake us up gently along with Dilara before we get a short but concise explanation of the dream and its affect on the heroine. Cleverly done, Donna.