Emeralds in the Valley | Jeanette Stampone

Emeralds in the Valley

Jeanette Stampone

The Grande, Vast & Brief Award

“In the great valley of Grande Vaste, something small is about to happen,” Tarja announced.

“Small?” Sydon’s eyes narrowed. “You promised something magnificent.”

“Yes,” croaked Tarja’s frail voice, “but small can be magnificent.”

“Show me,” he said. “Otherwise you will burn, just like the rest of those foul witches.”

A distant rumble echoed from the depths of the valley, shaking the ground beneath their feet.

“What is that?” Sydon asked.

“An angry mother.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll see.”

Tarja shuffled towards a cave, her hunched frame shrouded by the tattered cloak dragging behind her.

“You coming?” she asked, glancing back.

Nodding, Sydon, followed her, their shadows creeping across damp jagged walls.

Tarja swiped a spider as it scuttled across a rock. Holding it aloft by a single leg, it dangled between her bony fingers, spinning in a hopeless bid to free itself. Chuckling, she shoved it into her mouth. Then, with a crunch, yellow liquid oozed from her lips.

Sydon clutched his stomach. “Can we just get on with this?”

“You’re just in time,” Tarja said as she pointed to a box. Inside, an egg nestled on a bed of straw, gently wobbling; hairline cracks appearing as a tapping sound intensified.

Then it emerged – blinking emerald eyes, delicate wings folded against its backbone.

“You will be his master for life,” Tarja said.

Sydon reached in, his clammy hands within an inch of the soft scales.  Tarja grabbed his wrist. “You know the deal,” she said. Sydon gazed down at the beast, fragments of shell still scattered over its body. “Is he real?”

Tarja jabbed the creature. It sprung to life, a wildness in its eyes, a hiss and a single spark from its open mouth. Wings stretching, minuscule veins and bones just visible under paper-thin skin.

“He’s real alright. Take him and leave me alone.”

Another rumble, this time closer. “You have his mother?”

“Yes, but she’s old and useless. You have what you need. Everyone’s happy.”

“She doesn’t sound too damn happy,” Sydon said.

With that, he snatched the infant, ignoring its squawks. “Alright, it’s a deal,” he said, bolting back into the sunlight.

A tremendous roar ripped through the cave, shaking the walls with its force. Tarja shrieked as a blast of heat swept over her, engulfing her cloak in flames. As the stench of burning flesh filled the space, a creature emerged from the shadows; staring through the smoke with emerald eyes.




Title image by Shutterstock