Bentwhistle the Dragon is soon to return in a new adventure, the second in the series: A Chilling Revelation. Read on for an exclusive sneak preview……
Flash shook some of the water from his shivering, frozen body, as his eyes adjusted to the light in the cavern. Rubbing his hands and legs together on the cold floor, he took the biggest breath he could, now that he wasn’t restricted by the giant tail of the gold-coloured naga. Straining his head to look up, he caught sight of the ragged group of captives chained to the icy wall. ‘So, that’s what fate awaits me,’ he thought, trying to get to his knees.
The human-shaped naga slammed his foot into the middle of Flash’s back, forcing him back down onto the freezing icy floor. As Flash’s damp hair started to freeze to his scalp, a nagging sensation started to appear in his head. At first he thought it was just the pain from the cold and the shock of being immersed in the stream. But the sensation started to get stronger, almost like a knocking inside his head. With the human-shaped naga’s boot planted firmly in his back, stopping him from getting up, recognition finally blossomed within Flash. ‘Someone is trying to communicate with me,’ he thought.
It was an outdated method of communication, even by dragon standards, something akin to using a line of sight communication in the human world. Opening his mind, just a little at first, fearing some kind of trap, he caught a momentary slither of recognition from the semi naked, human-shaped prisoner nearest to him. Deliberately he buried his face in the icy cold of the wet floor he was lying on. The cold startled him into a clear train of thought. He opened his mind fully, listening intently as he did so.
“Can you understand me?” echoed a weary voice.
“I can,” Flash replied, carefully.
“We have very little time. You have to listen to what I tell without interruption. Understood?”
Laying as still as he possibly could in the circumstances, so as not to give the two nagas a clue as to what was happening, Flash replied,
“If you don’t act quickly, you, like us, will end up trapped here. Do you have a any way of taking out the human-shaped naga?”
For an instant Flash thought it might all be a trap designed to make him reveal his true identity. As quickly as the thought entered his head, it disappeared. His gut instinct told him this was for real, and that he would indeed be trapped here if he didn’t listen to what he was being told. Quickly he replied,
“Good. Once you’ve taken him out, you need to get straight back into the stream and follow its course.”
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“If you don’t do exactly as I say we’re all dead. Do you understand? I realise it’s about the last thing you want to do. But look around. Do you really want to end up like this? We take a great risk to give you this opportunity. Use it well.”
“Sorry,” said Flash, meaning it more than at any other time in his life.
“When you reach the point where the river splits in two, you must take the left hand route. It is the only way out. The right hand route will take you further into the mountain and to certain death. The left hand route breaks the surface towards the bottom of the mountain. You must hurry before the breathing mantra they’ve cast on you wears off. Understand?”
A thousand questions bubbled to the surface of Flash’s brain. Instantly he filtered them, leaving only the most important.
“What about the gold-coloured naga? I can’t possibly handle him.”
“We’ll take care of him. You just manage the human-shaped one, and get ready to cover your ears.”
“There are so many things I want to ask.”
“You have to go now. It’s the only opportunity we’ll have. You must bring help back. The naga prisoner you see here, is their king. They can’t free him, that’s why they are co-operating with these….scum. You must get help, and free the naga king. Now go, or it will be too late for all of us.”
Flash felt the foot of the human-shaped naga step off him. His stolen jacket was thrown to the floor in front of him. Flash was poised to strike, knowing that every moment he delayed might cause him to fail. But the chance of getting some of his stolen clothing back, was too great to pass up. Boots were tossed on top of the jacket, followed swiftly by his thermal leggings. That was it. Channelling every tiny bit of dragon energy he possessed, Flash rolled over onto his back and sprang to his feet, virtually on top of the human-shaped naga. A puzzled grin crossed the face of the naked naga, as Flash pumped the entire contents of his watch’s poison darts into the surprised naga. For a split second, Flash thought that it hadn’t worked for some reason. That was until the human-shaped naga crumpled to the ground in a heap, wearing only that stupid grin.
The gold-coloured naga looked at Flash menacingly. The look on the naga’s face caused Flash to have one of his epiphanies, the ones he only had when he was a hair’s breadth away from death. He needn’t have worried though. Before the naga had a chance to exact revenge on Flash, a wave of high pitched sound came screaming towards them. Flash scrambled to cover his ears as the wave knocked him off his feet. Flash could feel his ears leaking, blood he assumed, as he looked over to where the gold-coloured naga had been. Flash thought he was in pain from the sound wave, but as he studied the naga, he duly revised his assumption. The seemingly unstoppable creature was writhing around on the icy floor, screaming incoherently, its gills expanding and contracting at an alarming rate. A voice in Flash’s head told him it was time to go. He couldn’t work out whether it was his own or the other dragon’s. Slipping on the thermal leggings and boots, and grabbing his coat without doing it up, he turned and looked back at the prisoners, one last time.
“Go,” said the dragon, in his mind.
The naga king, having now stopped producing the sonic wave that had rendered the gold-coloured naga useless, looked directly into Flash’s eyes.
As he did so, Flash heard a very different voice inside his head. A dreamy, screeching kind of voice that said,
“You must get help here, to free us all. Only then will my kind desist what they are doing. You must get help, for the good of both our kinds.”
With that the king looked away. Flash knew his time was up. It was now or never. With one last look at the semi-naked human dragon, Flash turned and flung himself head first into the icy flowing water.
The mantra that had been cast on him, still held, was his first thought, as he tried not to pass out from the pain and shock of the water. His second thought was that it hurt more now, than the first time he’d entered the water.
The light from the cavern subsided, as the stream became fully enclosed underground, quickly leaving Flash encased by fast flowing water and bubbles of air. He couldn’t see further than about two feet in front of him. How on earth was he supposed to see when the stream separated into two parts? Kicking with his feet and flailing about with his arms, he tried as best he could to stay over to the left side of the channel, scraping himself along the side of the icy underground tunnel as he did so.
A sharp right hand bend, followed by a steep drop, sent Flash tumbling head over heels as the freezing water numbed his exhausted body. As he came out of the roll, his face smacked violently into a sharp piece of rock, right in the middle of the stream.
‘Oh my God,’ thought Flash. ‘This is it! This is the point where the streams separate.’ Scrabbling with his hands, he managed to get a handhold on part of the rock that he’d just banged his face on, realising belatedly that the tumble had moved him to the wrong side of the stream and now he was perilously close to plunging down the right side of the stream and, almost certainly….death. He held on for all he was worth, despite the fact that he could barely feel his fingers or hands. The fast flowing torrent of water continued to pulverise his body. He knew that the longer he remained here, the more likely it was that he would be carried to his death down this side of the stream.
Digging his finger nails into the rock, he used every muscle he had in his entire body, willing them all to work, despite the pain he felt in each and every one of them. It was working. His head was nearly level with the top of the rock. All he had to do was pull himself up just a little higher and then he could get one arm over the other side and pull himself into the left hand stream’s current. He was concentrating so hard on pulling himself up that he hadn’t noticed that tiny slithers of water had started to seep through the mantra that held the pocket of air around his head. The surprise of feeling the ice cold water running across his face nearly caused him to lose his grip. Opening his eyes, for they’d been closed as he had willed his muscles on to greater things, he saw that water had started to leak in all around his face.
‘The mantra must be wearing off,’ he thought, totally terrified. ‘I’m gonna drown in only a matter of moments.’ It was this thought, and this alone, that gave him all the energy he required. Scrabbling up the rock and throwing himself into the current on the other side, Flash zoomed headlong into the fast flowing water, concentrating on what was in front of him and the situation with the pocket of water encasing his head.
More water had started to flow around his face now, so much so that he’d swallowed a couple of mouthfuls accidentally, and had taken to spitting some of the water out and away from his face. The flow of the water in the stream started to slow, as the tunnel widened. The icy white sides of the tunnel became smoother, a bit like an underwater bobsleigh run. Flash hoped that the changes were indicative of reaching somewhere outside of the mountain, somewhere he could exit the stream. Still the water leaked even more around his freezing, throbbing, bleeding head, if he was not mistaken.
‘Must have been where I hit that rock,’ he thought, spitting the blood out along with a mouthful of icy cold water. Flash’s hope that the river would be leaving the mountain and coming out above ground seemed to have been dashed. The much slower flowing water was still firmly encased in a dark, icy tunnel, punctuated only by a few random eruptions of bubbles from the stream bed. Flash knew his time had nearly run out. Only a small amount of air remained around his face, air that he knew could disappear at any time. Desperation forced him into action and he started to swim as fast as he could, all the time taking deep breaths of the remaining air, knowing that one of them may be his last. Rounding a huge corner in what seemed to be the widest part of the stream he’d come across so far, he pushed on, forcing his legs to move for the fear of drowning.
Seconds after taking another deep breath, the remaining air surrounding his head bobbed away, leaving him terrified and exhausted. If he could have done, he would have cried. The irony of being surrounded by this much water and wanting to cry nearly made him laugh. The current carried him along as he held his breath and looked back on what had been quite an adventurous life. The first dozen or so thoughts and images that whizzed past jolted him into action. He wasn’t the sort of being that calmly laid down and went to his death. Alright, given the choice, he probably would have gone for an all-out fight to the death, with amazingly bad odds and just a hint of glory.
‘Well,’ he thought, ‘I haven’t been given the choice, but that doesn’t mean I’m just gonna give up and drown.’ He urged his legs on, kicking as fast as he could, the muscles burning with pain as he did so. He knew at best he’d have maybe another minute or so before his breath gave out, but he was determined to fight to the very end, albeit in a very different way from what would have preferred. Swimming for all he was worth, he seemed to be moving faster and faster.
‘The current is increasing again,’ he thought, ploughing on. Soon, wave after wave of bubbles blocked his vision, as he moved through them at unerring speed. His cheeks, with the remainder of his air, were battered and bruised by the rushing water and the bubbles, wanting nothing more to expel their last breath. Moving his arms and legs was getting harder, as he was concentrating so hard on not opening his mouth. As he pitched through another curtain of bubbles, a torrent of white water engulfed him, dragging him round a bend and into an almost vertical drop. Fighting not to open his mouth while wanting to scream, he hit the bottom of the river bed, hard, jarring his right knee and elbow, both at the same time.
He was only a few seconds away now from drowning. He could feel his mouth about to open, and knew there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it. Unexpectedly, a haze of light appeared through the bubbles up ahead. Clamping his mouth shut with all his might he surged forward. Black spots started to cloud his vision, but he pushed himself on. Rising upwards towards the light, Flash had no option but to open his mouth. His body continued upwards towards the light as the freezing water poured into his throat. Amazingly he broke the surface of the stream, into the bright Antarctic daylight. The spots before his eyes were getting worse, only tiny openings in his vision remained. With both his outstretched arms, he pulled himself for all he was worth out of the freezing cold stream and onto the snow covered bank. Turning onto his side, he immediately began throwing up all of the water he’d swallowed. The cold nibbled at his wet body, piercing him like a hot poker. Having thrown up everything he’d swallowed, Flash passed out on the snowy river bank, only inches away from the bitter stream that had nearly cost him his life.
Barely five minutes later, Flash’s survival instinct kicked in, and in a staggering display of stubbornness he awoke, wishing with every part of his body that he hadn’t. Feeling worse than an alcolholic’s hangover, and shivering on a kind of national level, he knew that he had to get back to the dragon domain. Nothing else existed, only that one thought. Getting to his feet, he staggered slightly and then fell back down to his knees. His head was so muzzy, he just couldn’t concentrate. Two deep breaths later, he was back on his feet. He had to get a grip, get his bearings and find a way to get away from this hell hole and get back to the dragon domain. Looking back round at the stream he’d come out of, he found that the stream only broke the surface for perhaps twenty or so feet before disappearing back underground. The bank and the surface of the stream were shielded from the normally roaring wind by a wicked looking rocky overhang that hovered menacingly over him at the moment. As Flash took all of this in, a little voice in the back of his head, said,
“They’ll come after you. As soon as they’ve recovered, they’ll come.”
He knew what he had to do. Still shivering violently, he took off his precious watch, noting the time and GPS location of where he was before he did so, and then set it down in the snow. Rubbing his hands together, he tried to get some feeling back into them and his fingers before he went any further. Not seemingly making any difference to his fingers, he set about turning the watch into an explosive device. He knew how to do it of course, and under normal conditions, it would only take a few seconds, but his cold fingers made it hard to press all of the small buttons in the right order. At the rate he was going, he’d be lucky not to blow himself to smithereens.
Eventually, after lots of fiddling and amazing amounts of concentration, Flash managed to set the proximity detection function. Setting the countdown to sixty seconds, so that he had enough time to get out of range, he depressed the button to start the countdown, leaving the watch on the icy bank, just pressed into the snow. Any movement at all after the timer had counted down, in a radius of thirty metres would set off the explosive device in the watch. Flash turned away from the watch and started to jog slightly, buoyed by the knowledge that he had once again escaped certain death by the very skin of his teeth.
A few paces into his jog, a loud splashing noise from the stream caused him to turn round. A vision from hell appeared dripping wet, on the water’s edge. The golden-coloured naga who’d captured him earlier, the one that he’d last seen flailing around on the floor of the prison, barely conscious, not that long ago, stared at him from thirty feet away. Flash couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
Bentwhistle the Dragon in a Threat from the Past can currently be downloaded free from Smashwords in all formats. For a limited time only.