Have you heard of the Inktober challenge? In response to a single word prompt, Inktober artists are supposed to create a daily drawing. It started as a drawing challenge and now includes a writer’s edition. Using the same #inktober prompts, write a 50 word (no more, no less) drabble and post it to social media (mostly Instagram).
Because I can never do things the easy way, I decided to create a story for my prompts. When I decided to do the Inktober challenge, I had just finished a novel that took me several months and was not quite ready to start my next one. So, the Inktober challenge came along at just the right time.
I posted these on Instagram throughout the month of October but thought it would be fun to memorialize it on the blog, in an easier to read format. Hope you enjoy!
It all started when Violet found the ring, nestled in her grandmother’s cloisonné jewelry box, the teal one with the white cranes and orange flowers on it. The faceted stone, a color between emerald and peridot, glinted in tarnished silver, as though even decades couldn’t dull its power or beauty.
Her grandmother, made mindless as disease ravaged her brain, lay motionless on the bed. Only her blue eyes tracked Violet, as bright with malice as ever. Violet lifted the jewelry box, intending to slip it into her bookbag but stopped. The pattern in the dust beneath would highlight its absence.
Violet slid the ring onto her thumb, the metal cold against her skin. It was heavier than she’d expected and slid around her finger. It didn’t seem to warm with proximity to her skin. Even in the dim room, it glowed brilliantly, beckoning.
“So you took the bait, eh, girlie?”
Violet froze at the raspy voice from the bed. Her grandmother hacked and coughed, as just that simple sentence cost her far more than it should. Violet dropped the ring into her pocket and turned, smoothing her face into a simpering smile. Her grandmother’s lips were flecked with ruby blood.
Death rattled in her grandmother’s sunken chest. Violet thought to call for her parents but the cry died in her throat. What was the point of disturbing them now? Her grandmother was long beyond help. Her family’s vigil had built to these final moments. It would be over soon enough.
Was her grandmother still breathing? She shifted closer to the bed and finally, realizing that there was nothing else for it, placed a hand on her chest. The instant the ring touched her grandmother’s skin, the ring flashed white, burning a circle into her skin. A husky voice said, “Welcome.”
With a sudden whoosh, the world went topsy-turvy. Violet tumbled onto a cold stone floor. She blinked up at an oddly glowing green ceiling, cradling her injured hand. Pierced metal braziers burst into light around the circular room, revealing ornately carved silver walls.
“I see you’ve found my enchanted ring.”
“Who’s there?” Violet demanded, her voice wobbly and frail. She scrambled upright, squinting around as her eyes adjusted to the odd, watery, green light from the domed ceiling above. She trailed her fingers over the wall next to her. The carvings matched the metal of the ring she still wore.
The pierced braziers above her head began to swing as though dancing, their chains jingling, like the wind chimes on her grandmother’s porch. They dappled the silver walls with dizzying, patches of chartreuse light. Violet pressed her back against the wall as she turned to examine the odd circular room.
A rectangular berth stretched across the far wall. A large indentation marked the center as though something massive had once rested there. Rumpled blankets covered one side, as though recently tossed off. The delicate embroidery on the silvery velvet reminded her of the cloisonné pattern on her grandmother’s jewelry box.
Where was she? Where had her grandmother gone?
The odd light glowing through the ceiling reminded her of swimming along the bottom of the brackish pond behind her grandmother’s house at midsummer, as the sunshine pierced the water.
A white flake drifted past her arm, then another. Was that snow?
Green ceiling—like the stone.
Metal walls- like the ring.
Touching her grandmother…the white-hot flash…. that sudden jerking motion.
“Could I be inside the ring?” Violet whispered.
“Well-spotted,” drawled a voice from across the room. “It usually takes them ages.”
On the plinth lay a cobalt blue dragon.
The dragon’s scales shimmered, a mixture of cobalt and emerald, flecked with copper. Its eyes, the same greenish gold as the stone in her ring, blinked lazily. Sharp claws flexed on the silver blankets before it yawned, sending a shower of white ash down to dust Violet’s hair and shoulders.
“You’re—that’s not—” Violet stammered. “A dragon?”
“Indeed,” The dragon sighed, sending another shower of ash swirling. “You were meant to be clever, for a mortal, anyway.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
The dragon’s eyes turned to slits, reminding her of a bad-tempered, overgrown house cat. Despite herself, Violet giggled.
Another giggle escaped.
Violet covered her mouth.
The dragon glared, “I’ll chalk that up to nerves, my dear, rather than laughing at a fearsome creature of legend such as myself. It would be rather an unwise thing for you to do. Of course, mortals are forever being unwise, aren’t they?”
The dragon stretched lazily and leapt down from the bed, jarring the stone floor as it landed. The rich scent of ripe cherries permeated the air as it stalked toward Violet, all wild grace, rather like a great cat. Light shimmered on its iridescent scales, mesmerizing her as he moved.
“Where did you get that particular ornament?” The dragon’s eyes flicked toward her ring and back to her, sharp with interest. Well-honed and wickedly sharp scales ran down his back and tail.
“This?” Violet held up her hand, the ring fracturing the greenish light. “I’ve had this ring for ages.”
“A liar as well as a thief, then,” The dragon snapped. “I shouldn’t have expected any better from that creature’s spawn.”
“I suppose you’d have called her—mother? No, Grandmother, perhaps?”
His intelligent gaze tracked the ring and then widened. “You’re not a misfit though, my dear.”
“Misfit?” Violet twisted the ring off and concealed it in her fist.
“That ring never fit her,” The dragon’s tapped his talons as he cocked his head, as though considering. “But it does fit you. How very curious, wouldn’t you say?”
“Not really,” She slung the ring across the room.
Throwing the ring was futile. The odd oval room offered no means of escape. Still, Violet had to at least try. She dragged her palms over the stone walls, seeking any possible exit.
Behind her, the dragon sighed again and, with a heavy tread, settled himself on the bed again.
“There’s no way out, my dear,” The dragon whispered softly, almost kindly, after Violet curled into a defeated ball against the wall, resting her head on her knees. “Believe me, if there was a way to escape, I’d have found it. Instead, it’s just me stuck here inside my treasure.”
“What does that mean?” Violet asked, not really caring what the answer was.
The dragon ignored her, “—trapped me in here when she was not much older than you are now. She stole my life from me. Everyone I loved is only ghosts now.”
“An ancient, eternal story,” The dragon shifted his shoulders, restlessly. “Long ago, she fell madly in love with me. But I loved another and it poisoned her with jealousy and rage. She couldn’t let her sister have the love she wanted so she destroyed our happiness with one simple spell.”
Dizzy at the dragon’s revelations, Violet stammered, “Auntie Alice?”
“My beloved’s name was Alice, yes,” The dragon agreed.
Suddenly, Violet giggled again. “You expect me to believe that my grandmother and my Aunt Alice fell in love with a dragon?”
“Well, I wasn’t a dragon back then, now was I?”
“How exactly did Grandmother trap you here?” Violet asked.
“She lured me to the weeping willows near the pond behind her house. She fed me tasty treats and honey mead. I drank too deeply. When I woke, I was in the ring I intended to give to my beloved betrothed.”
“It’s a dark tale,” Violet commented. “But maybe we can figure out a happy ending.”
“I see you have not yet forgotten optimism.”
“You said the ring didn’t fit her,” Violet said. “But it did fit me.”
“The ring is enchanted. It only fits the most beloved in each generation.”
Violet barely blinked at the news that she might be a dragon’s most beloved. It wasn’t the weirdest thing to happen to her today. They sat in companionable silence for a bit before he dragged one of the silvery blankets to her, his cobalt coat glowing in the dim light.
“The chamber sometimes gets chilly,” The dragon patted the blanket over her, giving her some small comfort in this bizarre topsy-turvy world. “Are you alright, my dear?”
“Today’s just been a bit of wild ride, that’s all,” Violet dredged up a weak smile for her newfound friend. “I’ll be okay.”
She placed her hand on his side, drawn by an impulse she couldn’t explain, desperate to feel his cobalt and copper scales beneath her fingers. As soon as the silver ring touched him, the ceiling exploded and the room was reduced to rubble. Dust swirled around them.
“Are you injured?”
Violet awoke, sprawled on the cobalt carpet in her grandmother’s room. A silvery embroidered bedspread covered the now-empty bed. The clouds outside gave the room an eerie, green glow.
A tall man, with golden eyes, stood in the doorway. Without warning, he tossed something metallic toward her, “Catch this.”
The rich scent of ripe cherries permeated the air as Violet noticed the cobalt dragon tattoo on the man’s bicep.
Was he the dragon? How was that possible?
He gave her a warm smile and without forethought, she slid the ring onto her finger.
Somehow, she’d caught herself a dragon.