Aye, I know what they say, me mother must’ve told it a thousand times. “Bad luck to speak o’ the evil spirits; to call ‘em by name is to invite ‘em in,” says she. Superstition and shepherds’ yarns, say I. Either way, speak I must, for I knew a girl once—Brynn she was called. She never spoke the name o’ that beast Alazoth, but his trouble overtook her just the same. If any lass in the land deserved a better life, it was she. I knew her afore she were borne, and I birthed her myself, I did. Watched her shoot up like a daffodil in the spring…until the mines dried up and I left the valley with the others.
Only her stubborn arse of a father refused to go. Could nae look past his own fear o’ changin’ to see the needs of his wife and child. “Me father, me grandfather, and me grandfather’s grandfather all lived and died right here, and so shall I,” said he. Old fool! He should o’ got out with the rest, whilst the goin’ was easy. Without them mines, that valley held nothing good. Only rain, and mud, and plagues o’ biting pests. Miles from anywhere it were. If the mountain slid down and covered the whole lot of us, no one would ever have known.
I did nae see Brynn again for a good many year, and when I did, it was the greatest sorrow of me life. She was confined to a small cottage, with iron on the windows, and two men on guard at the door. An unwholesome place it was, damp and cold. The wood floors were rottin’ beneath, and the roof were leakin’ overhead. A prisoner she was, and starting to bear child. Now, I’ve birthed many a babe, ‘tis why I was called. Not many midwives out in them wilds, so many knows my name, even when I never met ‘em afore. They always find me somehow when the moment arrives, and I always go, no questions asked.
I’ve no need to say how surprised I was to find that Brynn was the lady I came for, and she was surprised to see me too. She was both comforted that I was there, and filled with shame that I should see her livin’ such a life. But I was there to help, and I could sense from the moment I looked at her that this was goin’ to be a bad birth. She was in far too much pain to be so early on, and she were pale and sickly on top o’ it. In between the bursts of pain, she told me the sad tale o’ how the wicked Alazoth had come to their door in a storm, beggin’ shelter. And they, not knowin’ who he was, let him in for the night. He was terrifyin’ to behold with his dark staff and antlered helm, for he can put ye in a panic just by looking at ye, or so they say. But not many that ever looked upon him lived to tell about it later. She was one of the few, and he let her live only well enough to suit his own purpose.
She said his roving eye watched her all durin’ the night, and she was greatly scared o’ what might happen to her. And in the morn’ when he rose up, he told her father he were takin’ her to wed. No askin’, just takin’! Old fool, what could he do? He could barely walk his way across the floor—old enough to be Brynn’s grandfather he was, and by then her ma was dead. The sickness got her one winter, so Brynn told me, and there was no doctor nearby to help. But that’s the way o’ it out there in the wilds—healthy one day, and dead the next, with no one to mourn over ye but the one who has to dig the grave. I was glad enough to leave that life. But to get back to what I was sayin’, Brynn was taken from her father and brought to this place, and though Alazoth vowed to wed her to her father’s face, he didn’t give her even that much honor. Just kept her locked away, and forced her to bear his demon child. Such a waste o’ a beautiful life!
The pain on Brynn’s face was twofold; first by the child which was comin’ out feet first, and second by her own despair. As the night wore on, I could see both she and the babe were in hard trouble. She was not well enough in body or in spirit to bear it, not a breech. She pulled me close, and begged me in a low breath to leave her be. “Only hold my hand, and nothing more,” said she. I knew what she wanted. She thought she would die without my help, and with her death, so would the babe die too. She knew, as I did, that this child would be nae but an evil copy o’ his father; half human, half demon. Who knew what sort of nefarious creature he would become under Alazoth’s rule. Now, I were in the business o’ helpin’ mothers to live, and trying to lessen their pain, not sittin’ back and watchin’ ‘em die in me arms. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but I knew Brynn was right.
A thousand deaths would be kinder than the life she would live by Alazoth’s side. For he was immortal, and meaner ‘an all the sins o’ the world put together. That babe, if it lived, was like to be no better. But fate would have its way. She died, that beautiful daffodil I knew once, in fearful agony. And the babe did yet live. Since Brynn was not alive to do it, I named the child for her, as was the custom. I called him Collden, which means “dark valley,” for that was where his mother was from, and where her troubles began…in that cursed mountain valley.
The guards snatched him from me arms, and I never saw him since. But it was said years later that Alazoth could be seen roaming the lands with a boy by his side…a boy who had power over Alazoth’s hell hounds and was able to resurrect the dead. But the life he gave was empty and soulless, fit only for eternal slavery in Alazoth’s armies. I do nae know if the stories are true, and I’m not lookin’ to find out either. I pray every day that my encounters with that babe are forever done.
I took Brynn, and buried her proper in me family plot. No sign of her father could be found, though rumor has it that after Brynn was taken, he cast himself from the mountain top. It was a long time afore I were ready to birth another babe, for the horrors of Collden’s birth still weighed heavy on me heart an’ soul for many years after.
Story published in:
THE DRAGON TEMPEST
Tales of Fantasy and Adventure
The Dragon Tempest offers a collection of short stories in a variety of fantasy genres, including dark, light, adventure, and epic. Creatures from all worlds abound: dragons, angels, centaurs, witches, gods and goddesses, and those lurking below the water’s surface. Whether you’re moved by tales of battle and bloodshed, suspense, humor, or enlightenment, The Dragon Tempest will leave you craving more from each author. Such a diversity of great fantasy tales to enjoy will leave no room for disappointment.
Also Featuring: “A Bard’s Tale”
A rogue bard seeks rest from the road at a favorite tavern. Seeking a night of merriment and free ale, he finds instead an unexpected danger…and an old friend. Can a tune and a little cunning save them both?