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Green Dragon Prologue continuation

by redcoat 

Posted: 02 February 2007
Word Count: 2514
Summary: Dran is the son of an Iron Age chieftan. A girl has caught his eye, but will bring ruin upon him. This continues where a previous installment left off.
Related Works: Green Dragon - Prologue • 

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One day, returning from a hunt in the southern dells, I saw our Potter. He’d built a firing pit by a stream where fine clay could be dug, and set his boys to light it. Well wrought vessels stood ready for firing and I remarked on them, startled to hear in my own voice the tone of my father. The potter ducked his head, as he would if Ghadran himself spoke kindly. I was about to go, feeling that I was making the man uncomfortable, when Ulyen appeared. We had not spoken since my father’s return, only begun to acknowledge one another by looks and small gestures. But here she was, approaching boldly.

“Dran Gheodran,” she said, ignoring the potters, “You’ve killed the doe and left the fawn.” The doe lay across my shoulders, blood dripping.

“The fawn is half grown, and a buck besides. It will do well.” It had sprung away, a fine beast.

“It saw you kill its mother.”

“Then I’ll fear its vengeance. Were you hunting also, watching in the woods? I might have shot you.” It pricked at me that I’d not known she was there, and reminded me of our other meeting. “We must eat. What deer should I take, if not those the wood-spirits show me?”

“The fields grow all we can eat, and the swine give meat. We don’t need this carcass.” The potter sidled away to his kiln, loudly instructing his helpers.

“We don’t need much that we have. It’s foolish to put it aside. The Ancestors laboured to enrich us and we shouldn’t dishonour them.”

“What ancestor is dishonoured if a deer runs free?” She was defiant. “For all you know this doe was one!”

“An ancestor that took flesh as a deer would dishonour me.” I calmed myself. “Why must we argue, Ulyen? There must be better conversation.”

“What does a half grown buck know of conversation?” She said. The sun came out and she drew up the hood of her cape, shading her face. It seemed an odd movement.

“I will go to my father’s house, with my doe. If you’ll walk with me we can talk agreeably. Or try to.” I moved the animal on my shoulders; it was heavy. “Tell me what’s in your bag, perhaps.” She wore a rawhide bag by habit, always at her hip when I saw her. It was bulky with something. As we moved off from the pottery she looked inside, but seemed suddenly guarded.

“My knife, a bowl for collecting seeds. I gather herbs for healing. It’s a tradition in my family.” She showed me a sprig of leaves. They didn’t look like any I knew to have healing virtue.

“I haven’t heard my father call upon your family to help the sick.”

“Ours is a foreign skill. Your Speaker wouldn’t let us tend others.”

“He’s not my Speaker. He stays under sufferance. My father would value any healing skill that might serve the clan, I should think.”

Her brow had knitted. “Dran, I wish that you will not say anything to him.”

“You wish.”

“Yes. Please.”

I let it go. “What are those stones?” I’d seen them when she had replaced the knife in the bag, three or four smooth stones the size of duck’s eggs.

“Those? Just toys. Favourites from when I was little.” Which was so clearly a lie that I struggled not to laugh. I let that go too. I was so much enjoying her presence that she could have lied all morning for all I cared. It was warm, with sunshine spilling through the leaves and a rich, living scent rising from the ground among the trees. “You speak scornfully of the Speaker. Don’t you heed him?” she asked. “My father said Ghadran brought him here with great ceremony.”

That was true enough. “Some people fear the Ancestors. Speaker can help my father in his work.” Father kept the Speaker not to appease the Ancestors, but so that he could grip those who feared ghosts more than they did him. I could have misled Ulyen about it but had not.

“Why does he stay, only to be used? Doesn’t he feel dishonour?”

“I don’t know.” In truth I hadn’t considered it.

“Perhaps he dares not leave. Ghadran does not allow people to pass freely from his grip.”

“What? Anyone may leave my father’s house.”

“Anyone that would go naked and unfed.”

I tried to find her eyes in the shadow of her hood. “Ulyen, I know what is said. He will keep anything that rightly belongs to the people. Is that not just? All may share what we have, but to leave is to forfeit.”

“The Speaker would forfeit more, I think.”

“An easy life. I don’t think the Ancestors trouble him half as much as he would have us believe.”

“I’ve seen you talking to him. What do you speak about?”

“I talk to him. I like disturbing him. He used to hate it but I make him smile sometimes. I don’t speak of spirits or Ancestors, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ll say ‘Look at Barna. Have you ever seen such tits?’ He will have to work very hard to stay so grave. ‘Speaker! Did you not prophesy that dog-turd, before you stepped on it?’ I’m sure he thinks I’m a fool.”

“He would recognize his own kind, then.”

“You think him a fool? If he has stayed so long at my Father’s sufferance then he is certainly not that.”

“Neither does he speak to the Ancestors.”


“They would hardly waste their time with him.”

There was certainty in the way she spoke. It might have been girlish prattle except for that. I found I could believe she really knew these things.

We came out from the trees and started up the rise towards the village. She asked, “Do you believe in the Spirits?”

“I don’t understand. I believe in me, if you call that believing. I believe in that sheep. I believe in you.” I felt a little tremor saying that, a new feeling. I saw her look at me and spoke on quickly, “The spirits live in all the world. They are life itself, don’t you think?”

She picked up a rock. “There is a spirit in this rock? Hello rock! Goodbye!” And she hurled it away across the turf. “You just believe what you’ve always been told.”

“Is it wrong? I only know what everybody else knows.”

After a time walking in silence, me not finding words to turn us from this talk, she said. “Does your bow have a spirit?” She plucked it from my hand and looked closely at the wood. “You honour the spirit and ask its help in finding your mark, yes? Did you make this?”

“No. Old Bowyer made it. Give it back, Ulyen, it’s no girl’s thing.”

“Did he put the spirit in?” And she raised the bow and drew it, which amazed me since Bowyer made it for the full strength of my arm and she should not have been able to. I remember the shape of her lips, the bowstring quivering at her cheek, her hand not quite still and her jaw set, pale neck corded with effort. She let fly her imagined arrow.

“You are too full of questions.” I took the bow from her. She rubbed her fingers where the string had bitten. “Come on.” We continued towards the palisade, the rising ground taking our breath, keeping us from further talk. Where the path narrowed around a spinney I let Ulyen go ahead. She’d been out early and was dressed for warmth, but even so I could see her shape in the smooth rhythm of her movements. I almost tripped.

She glanced back and smiled. “How do you catch anything, stumbling about like that? The spirits indeed must help you.”

On the hillside folk were all about working amongst the crops. Suddenly I realized what we must look like, me with the deer dragging at my shoulders and Ulyen at my side, young and pretty as the morning. I felt a chill despite the sunshine, as though in premonition.

Our thoughts must have been running alike. “My mother will be in the cornfields.” Ulyen said, moving up off the path. “It’s been good to walk with you, Dran.”

“Perhaps you’ll ask me more questions another time.”

“Perhaps.” She angled off across the fields and I hoisted the doe again.


Ulyen and I met often as summer warmed and the days stretched. Always we spoke of things on the edge of what is known, as lovers do. For lovers we were, in words if not in flesh. I never pressed her for her secrets, for where she went among the woodlands and why she kept from the sunlight. It pained me not to touch her, though.

[scene deleted here]

Ghadran taught me use of his father’s sword. On the hillside with shield and leather harness he made me fight him. He frightened me, cut me and made me angry. He showed me why I couldn’t strike him and then how I could. He made me draw his blood and laughed at me through wild grey hair. It became our habit. I couldn’t outmatch him but we grew closer and closer in strength. People came to watch, not knowing if our practice would end horribly, and Ghadran for once did not chase them back to work. Ulyen and the Speaker stayed away.

One day, after nightfall, Ghadran spoke again of my marriage to a daughter of Fathaf. At other times I had shrugged this off. Now he wanted me to visit Fathaf, saying he might require the match as my duty to him. I said I knew my duty, but did not wish such a marriage; if Fathaf threatened our house we could stand side by side against him. “Fool!” he cried. “Would you bring war to our people? For the sake of vanity?” He railed at me, spoke of his labour to bring food and honour to our people, decried the ingratitude of his children. “Will you defy me Dran? Tell me now.” I remember his face full of blood, his eyes blazing.

“I’m not free to do as you wish in this, Father.”

He flinched. “Not free? That witch! Not free?” I thought he would strike me. We had put aside our weapons and I felt now the nakedness of being unarmed, knowing the pent-up force within this man. “Not free you say. Not free to do what I would have you do for the good of all. All that have fed you, wiped your arse and called you my son. Not free!” He stood and stalked around the hearth. The household moved aside, shrinking into the shadows.

“These people make me their guide in the World. The Ancestors at my shoulder entrust to me this work of husbandry, but you, you are no part of this, eh? You are not free!” He was close again, and a force seemed to spread from him into the darkness of the house. “But you’re free to tarry with outland bitches, boy. Free enough to fumble in the shadows, eh?” And the blow came, invisibly fast, and I reeled back into darkness.

His face came into sight again, swam before me as he bent, his spittle dappling my face. “Well I free you of her now. I’ll show you freedom.”

I lay in confusion, then raised myself. In truth I cannot really absolve myself of it, but I stood in indecision, weighing Ghadran’s meaning while he moved in full anger. It came to me to follow him and I got outside, but still I was not thinking clearly.

“Arm yourself.” A voice from the shadows, hard against the side of the house, under the eaves.

“Who’s there?”

“Arm yourself, Dran Gheodran, if you would ever fight a just fight.”

“Speaker? Show yourself!”

“Go, fool! Can’t you hear the Crow about his work?” And then I did, a shriek from among the houses and a roaring of male voices. Knowledge burst within me and I leapt back into the house, vaulting the hearth and seizing my sword from the sleeping-chamber even as the rest of the household gathered itself to its feet. Ghadran’s wrath frightened them, but the sounds from the village stirred them to action. Pushing past, I got outside again and ran. Another horrible scream came and I felt dizziness sweep over me. I’d never been to Ulyen’s dwelling but I knew then where that din would lead me.


There were people huddled in doorways and shadows, watching a small house that huddled under the palisade. They saw me and shrank back. These were Ghadran’s people, his children, flushed from their homes in sudden fear. They needed only what they knew and understood, but here was I, sword in hand, inexplicable.

A huddled shape lay on the ground at the doorway of the house. It shifted as I came near and I saw it was a man, on his back, struggling feebly. Hafgan. His face was a black-bloody mess in the moonlight, his hands clutching at another wound in his chest. He saw me I think, and a bubbling sound came from him. I looked away. I felt numb, but then heard whimpering from inside and a deep huff of breath, Ghadran’s voice growling, gasping, somebody sobbing. A hand caught my shirt and before I could turn I was shoved bodily into the doorway, flailing at the doorcloth as a torch fell past me, shedding sparks and flaring light into the house.

A second body was curled like a baby to one side, a woman. The floor was bloodied, the hearth a wet ruin of ash and cookpot. At first I thought my father too was fallen but then saw the truth of it, that he lay where he chose, his leaf-bladed sword in one hand and Ulyen’s night-black hair pulled taut in the other. I stepped around the hearth. Did he know I was there? I stood over them, watched his heaving back, his grey locks falling across her face. Her eyes were closed but then, as my sword shook in my hand, opened in a flood of tears and fixed on mine.

How long? The torchlight leapt and I stood rooted, staring into Ulyen’s gaze. There was blood on her lip. Strangely, that was when I knew she loved me.

In the instant of that knowledge I stepped forward to drive my sword into him, but he was suddenly rising towards me, roaring. His blade flashed up, turning my thrust aside as his shoulder crashed into me, throwing me back. I reeled, caught my balance, and by new reflex raised my own blade again as he smashed down at me with terrible force. In the moment before blackness came up to swallow me, when the reverberation of that killing blow seemed to slow the stream of the World, I saw my father turn away and reach for his prize once more.

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Comments by other Members

redcoat at 11:32 on 02 February 2007  Report this post
My main concern here is not so much the issues of scene setting that came up with the first installment (they do also apply obviously). I'm interested in knowing about how the pace is working. Have we seen enough of the flirtation? Do we need a bit of a clinch in there somewhere? Also, do Ghadran's actions come too much out of the blue? Is it a shock or not enough of one? Ideally I want the reader to discover the extent of Ulyen's web through Dran's eyes, so at this stage there are a few things he doesn't know.

Any views?

JenDom at 12:55 on 02 February 2007  Report this post

Now this is much better! The action was immediate, the set up for Ghadran explosive and his fatal reaction to Dran's stubborness exciting.

Hafgan's kin are obviously mistrusted by Ghadran. I get a sense of Ghadran's fear that he may very well loose his power if he does not seal the Fathaf deal between Dran and the daughter. Is Hafgan about to stake a claim so to speak?

There are so many intricacies to this power struggle brewing on the horizon - I think if these are explored then Ghadran's explosive denouement would be perfectly understandable. He is desperate to form an alliance with Fathaf by arranging Dran's marriage to one of his daughters. Has this been elaborated on adequately? Are there other serious contenders to the throne. I know Ghadran doesn't feel his first born son is capable but why does he feel this?

Yes, please more of Dran and Ulyen flirtation/sexual attraction. Less of the below.

Ulyen and I met often as summer warmed and the days stretched. Always we spoke of things on the edge of what is known, as lovers do. For lovers we were, in words if not in flesh. I never pressed her for her secrets, for where she went among the woodlands and why she kept from the sunlight. It pained me not to touch her, though

Perhaps another long drawn out scene between the two. Their byplay and obvious attraction to each other is beautifully done. Ulyen is an amazing character - she is so modern in her independence of spirit.

I don't understand what you mean by Ulyen's web? Does she have subliminal reasons behind her flirtation with Dran? Is she playing politics with his heart?

All I seem to do is ask questions!

I look forward to reading more.


JenDom at 14:43 on 05 February 2007  Report this post
I've posted my comments in that archive link! *G*


Murphy at 18:21 on 06 February 2007  Report this post
I noticed there was a carcase not carcass, and sometimes a “my father” or “my father”. But these things don’t strike me as being important for now.

This piece did move quicker for me. Yes, I knew the characters, relationships and setting so I didn’t have to figure out who was who or where they were.

I thought the scene between Dran and Ulyen was fine – sexy enough for me (I'll try and get back to the steamier scene later). I particularly liked the references to how he goaded the Speaker; I’m sure it was the same then as it is today. There was quite a bit on the doe and buck and presume they have significance later? If not is there a bit too much?

The father/son fight and apparent slaughter (although Ulyen is still shown as alive) of Ulyen’s family seem a good place to end the prologue and move on in time. Is that what you have in mind?

Longer works are always more complex to comment on than short stories for me as it can be a while before you see the end. I might be wrong but do think you need to read a complete work before you can offer really good advice on a piece. It maybe that 40,000 words down the line someone sees something that makes sharpening the beginning easier. Maybe you could try the devil’s work and post a synopsis one day!

From what I can see you can certainly write and hope you can keep posting and we can all keep reviewing, as I think it deserves it.

Do you have any ideas what you want to do with it when it’s finished?

Forbes at 18:24 on 06 February 2007  Report this post

Now I liked this passage (!)

Ulyen and I met often as summer warmed and the days stretched. Always we spoke of things on the edge of what is known, as lovers do. For lovers we were, in words if not in flesh. I never pressed her for her secrets, for where she went among the woodlands and why she kept from the sunlight. It pained me not to touch her, though.

But it did not give me much of a sense of time passing. Not as much as I think (!) you intended?

Perhaps you could split up the initial chuck of speech with "time passing" passages? Go retropective at one point and explain a little of the relationship betwix the two? This may also help with scene setting too.

For me once I get past the * in the text, the pace flows nicely, with enough scene setting, but perhaps not enough dialogue?

Before the * is ALL dialogue and it feels to me as though it is being said in a white "box", because I can't place it anywhere. Perhaps my imagination is letting me down!

I haven't got to the "hot link" yet - but I shall!



of course I meant chunk of speech & not chuck! Silly me.


redcoat at 09:20 on 07 February 2007  Report this post
Forbes and Murphy, I am indebted!

It shouldn't really surprise me that different people see things differently, but the fact that You, Forbes, diverge in opinion from Jen on some things is actually pretty cool. And it does make me think hard about where to put the emphases, so its only a good thing.

If you do read the steamy scene you will see a little more explanation of who Ulyen is and what her motivations are. This could equally well be done elsewhere though. It also demonstrates more of Dran's potential for violence, which is a bit more important; he turns from a rather dreamy introvert into a dangerous obsessive during his part of the story, but this has to be credible.


Carcass - how did I miss that? Thanks Murph'

I used 'my Father' in draft, then changed it (not thoroughly enough) to 'my father' because it looked odd. It was supposed to convey respect for the grizzled parent originally.

The doe/buck thing is related to a particular bond that Ulyen has with deer, so whilst not vital it will resonate elsewhere hopefully.

The events described in the so-called 'prologue' are all supposed to take place during the space of a single summer. This needs to be more explicit. I would put back a good deal more of the descriptive texture that I have previously edited out in order to convey that, which would also help to balance some of the dialogue. There is a natural break after Ghadran's burst of violence, and I'm sure I would shift to modern scenes at that point in composing the actual chapter format.

I've thought of little else but plotting this in recent days (which is a bummer since I'm supposed to be job-hunting. . . ) and cannot long put off the dreaded synopsis. Watch this space.

In fact, before the synopsis I'll probably upload one more Iron Age section. Dran may be down, but he's far from out just yet . .

Thanks again for your kind attention and encouragement, much valued I assure you. About what I'll do when its finished, that seems so remote a prospect that I hadn't formulated a plan!


V`yonne at 12:34 on 09 February 2007  Report this post
I'm enjoying the story and reading the comments. I think a bit of physical now...just a bit.

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