Dragon’s Ring — Snippet 11

Chapter 10

The sons of Chiron stood around the sacred pool like statues, perfectly placed and ordered. Not a tail moved, nor nostril flared, as they focussed their will on the pool. The peat-stained water was very dark and very still. That stillness was a rare thing up here where the winds were born. Yet the faintest ripple would destroy the working that they had struggled so to achieve. This was an ancient place, steeped in magics. The future that they sought to explore was always an uncertain country.

There was not a hint of a breeze but the water shivered. Gradually it stilled. Images began to form in the water. Images of chaos and death. And twined through the shifting possibilities, over and over, a black dragon. But one area of water remained clouded. There were hints of reds and yellows. But the colors shifted and moved like oil on water, defying their will, refusing to resolve into a shape. And then briefly, a vista, a vast panorama, looking out across the autumnal hills and across the wild oceans to the purple mountains . . . two humans. One short, one tall, in grey cloaks with their backs to the centaurs. And the black dragon was there supporting the scene on his outspread wings . . . The vision flickered rapidly to a snow-capped mountain, a stone ‘beehive’ and, as it did that, the patch of water it had appeared in vanished, in a sharp curl of steam. Like tossing a stone into the pool that had created ripples, spreading and distorting.

The ripples reached the edge and bounced back. And in the fading last visionary moments they saw Actaeon’s face. The price of his vanity was a high one, they knew. The emptiness, so far from the high plateaux and endless song of wind and grasses, must be hard to bear.