About 1100 words.
But just part of a 400,000 word fantasy trilogy, "The Chronicles of Ghenna" by Kym ap Rhys.
I am privileged to be asked to proofread it. Enjoying it too....

The Guardian

CATHAN JERKED ABRUPTLY FROM SLEEP and glanced round the room in confusion. The dying embers from the fire cast a dull red glow, turning the drapes round the bed into dark, glowering shapes. He sat up, pulling the blankets close against the cold.

A figure waited at the end of the bed. A young woman. Even in the dull glow from the fire, he could see her quite clearly. Long lashes framed her dark eyes; beneath them, heavy shadows smudged across pale skin. Her mouth was narrow, the lips slightly apart revealing even, white teeth. Her face was neither young nor old, fair or plain. It was a haunted face, the face of someone driven to the limit of endurance. A face that revealed nothing but sorrow.

Against the pallor of her skin, the bright scarf tied round her hair seemed too vivid and gaudy. The fringes hung across her brow and down around her ears like strands of rainbow hair.

Her clothes were unbleached wool, bordered with the same vivid colours as the scarf. Heavy knitted garments that seemed too large and cumbersome for such a slender frame. Around her neck, a dark disk hung on a fine silver chain. Gold hoops glinted in her ears.

Cathan stared in shocked silence. No one would enter his rooms uninvited. Maybe she had knocked, and come in without waiting for his reply. She had the look of the Dhyathen about her. Was she the messenger he was expecting from Elyssian?

He rubbed his eyes. "Greetings to you."

The woman regarded him in silence.

"Can I help you?" he asked, wondering if this were merely the continuation of his dreams.

"I am no dream, High Lord," her voice was husky and deep.

"Then who are you? Do you come from the Dhyathen?"

Slowly, she shook her head and the rainbow fringes from the scarf fell across her face. "I am Rhialla na Goreth. Guardian of Rhath Alazhyl."

Cathan's frown deepened. "How did you get in here?"

A faint smile touched her lips. "I am here, and I am not here. What you see is mere projection. An image cast from far way. I am come with a message." She held something up before her. In the dull glow from the fire, it looked like a heavy glass rod, about an arm span long.

"I don't understand…"

She gestured him to silence with her other hand. "Have patience, and I will speak the reason for my visit."

"But why come now, in the middle of the night?"

"When else could I be sure to find you alone? But listen, I lack strength enough to hold this projection long, and there is much I must say. I am Rhialla na Goreth, Guardian of Rhath Alazhyl, on the isle of Ynith Alazhyl. For generations my ancestors have resided in that lonely tower."

Cathan nodded. Now she had named Ynith Alazhyl, he knew where she was from. An island, north and west of Dhorhan. An island he thought uninhabited by any other than seabirds and seals.

"I am the last of us."

His eyes widened in surprise. Was she reading his thoughts?

"A little, maybe. 'Tis the way of the projection," she confirmed. "Before Ar'Amhya, many folk lived on our island. After the plague, only my family and a few others remained. It is a lonely isle. The winds are bitter and the boats from Rhesham few. Over the years the young folk left, seeking companionship and trade on the mainland. Since my birth, only my parents and I remained. My mother died some five winters since, and this last summer my father followed her. Now I am alone. But I have kept the pledge. I am Guardian of Rhath Alazhyl, and I am come to give you the warning." She held up the glass rod again. "The glass does not lie, Lord. The lights of Rhath Alazhyl have failed."

"The lights?" he asked, perplexed. "I am sorry…"

Rhialla shook her head, and a deep frown creased her brow. "You know not of our pledge? You know not of the lights of Rhath Alazhyl?" She regarded him with weary eyes. "There is not the time for this. The projection… I cannot hold it for much longer. High Lord, you must consult your records. Our pledge is scribed in the annals of the High Council, by the hand of Amnan na Goreth himself. You must come. Come to Rhath Alazhyl and honour our pledge…"

Cathan shook his head in bewilderment. "I cannot leave Mesorathe. The city is in turmoil. There have been riots. The College of Ems has been razed to the ground."

She bowed her head, and he saw despair in her eyes. "High Lord, you must not fail us. What matters the fate of one city against the doom of our entire land? Before the festival of Gateways, before Isfanyn, you must come to Rhath Alazhyl. Do not cast away the pledge my family has kept since the time of the Making…" her voice became fainter as she spoke, and he had to strain to catch her words. The glass rod fell from her hand, shattered with a crash. Rhialla staggered, and grasped at the trinket round her neck. She glanced towards him in utter despair, then gave a terrible cry of pain and crumpled to the floor.

Cathan leapt from bed and fumbled for a lantern and firestone. As the soft golden glow lit the room, he heard her voice again, a soft whisper as though from very far away. "Come to Rhath Alazhyl, High Lord. You must come… Before the Seven Strangers are seen…"

Cathan stood motionless, staring at where she had been. Broken glass scattered over the boards and rug, but of Rhialla na Goreth, there was no sign. He picked up one of the larger fragments of glass. It was one end of the rod. Heavy, clear glass, in the form of a hollow tube nearly as thick as his wrist. The end of the tube was sealed with a dark disk. Inside what remained of the tube, the other side of the disk was polished like a mirror. He sorted through the fragments until he found the second disk, with fragments of glass still adhering to its edge.

Cathan sighed, sat on the end of the bed and turned the disk over in his hands. It was cold and heavy; some kind of metal. Blood seeped slowly from one finger where the sharp glass had cut him, but he paid it no heed, regarding the shattered fragments in awe.

It had been no dream.

Kym ap Rhys ~ 1995 ©