Dragon Fire: Episode 28

After a long day’s ride, Aric and Degan finally stopped to rest, settling around a glowing fire.

“We should reach journey’s end tomorrow as the sun slips below the horizon,” Degan said.

“Where are we headed?” Aric asked.

“There is an old church just outside a long abandoned town. It is said that demons dwell within the city walls but dare not seek out the church. A priest, too stubborn to give into spirits, lives there and keeps the grounds,” Degan answered.

Aric peered into the trees before asking,

“Where are they?”

“They?” Degan asked.

“Those who follow you,” Aric clarified.

“They circle the clearing,” Degan said, “always watching. Excellent guards.”

As the soft moon drifted through the evening sky, Aric laid his head back against the rolled blanket and closed his eyes, trying to slow his thoughts. But when he heard a rustle in the grass, he popped up and searched the darkness.

“You sense it as well?” Degan asked.

“I heard it,” Aric said.

“The guards can smell it. I know what they know,” Degan said.

Aric listened carefully then said,

“At least five of them.

“They tell me six,” Degan said as his eyes followed the sound.

When Degan looked back toward Aric, he saw that he had slipped away, his swords in hand.

“Slay the bandits. Spare the harmless,” Degan commanded.

 

*          *            *

 

Aric quietly slipped through the woods, keeping low under cover of the bushes. At first glance, the intruders looked like bandits as they circled the area. One man, a youth stout in body, stood beside a tree, his sword ready. Without a sound, Aric stepped out and quickly slid his hand across the youth’s brow, slamming his head against the tree.

From across the woods, someone yelled,

“Look out!”

Aric heard a loud bellow as another voice shouted,

“He is behind you!”

Just as Aric positioned himself to charge, a man stepped out of the clearing and raised his hand. His head tilted back at an unnatural angle, and a jagged piece of tree limb pierced his chest. He beckoned Aric to follow and turned back towards the clearing.

Aric followed the dead man to Degan who stood with a small army of the dead, now larger by four.

“I see that one escaped,” Aric said.

“What do you mean?” Degan asked.

“There are four here, and I knocked one against a tree. That is only five, and you said there were six.”

“No, we have the sixth one,” Degan said.

At that, one of the dead turned, and with his remaining arm held up a small creature, humanoid in shape. Its skin was gray like old leather, and the eyes shone a pale red. A few strands of mud brown hair fell forward into its face as it ran a toadlike tongue across sharp yellow teeth. With one four-fingered hand, it held a small dagger just beneath the tattered edge of a ragged sleeve.

“Tell it to release Gonorap, or he will cut you open in your sleep and bind you with your own entrails,” the creature sneered and growled.

Aric stepped forward and asked,

“And are you Gonorap?”

“Yes. Look upon the face of your death. Gonorap will crawl down your throat and chew his way out if he is not released at once,” the creature swore, pointing the dagger.

“Will he now?” Aric said as he raised the point of his sword.

When the creature saw the blade, it flinched and dropped the dagger.

“No,” it eeked. “Tis jest, sir.”

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Published in: on May 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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