Dragon Fire: Episode 34

After riding for most of the long night, a weary Aric looked to the sky for any sign of daybreak.

“Do not bother,” Degan said. “You will find no sunlight where we are travelling.”

Up ahead, Aric could see a farmhouse, its walls old and weatherworn. Weeds had woven their way through chinks in the rotting wood.

“That was once a good home, I think,” Aric said, nodding toward the farmhouse. “Perhaps a plague has driven away the people, leaving their farms to the ravages of weather and woodland creatures.”

Degan glanced at the house as they passed then said,

“It is still occupied. We are nearing Rainbow Creek.”

When Aric turned around in the saddle, he saw an old woman, pale with hardship, too weak to care for the land.

“Dear woman,” Degan called out to her, “we wish an audience with the king. Is he in residence?”

“These days our king never leaves his chambers,” she rasped through rotted teeth.

“He is ill?” Degan asked.

“The king was well until a storm passed through some time ago. Its wind brought sickness upon him, and he took to his bed,” she answered.

“What of his family?” Degan asked. “I have heard he has three fine, strong sons.”

“The princes left soon after the king took ill,” she explained. “Then the people began dying and the land dried up. Even the king’s soldiers were smitten.”

“What was this sickness that fell?” Aric asked.

“No one knows,” the woman confessed. “They just took ill and died. Those who were able took to the roads, leaving behind hosts of the dead for the birds. Our fields are full of the fallen, men and cattle alike.”

“Grief comes to every man. We will trouble you no longer,” Degan said as he snapped the horse’s reins.

“Should we not stop to offer aid?” Aric suggested when he saw the woman lean against the back door of the house.

“No, Aric. This land is cursed. It is no longer a place of safety.”

Aric dropped his head in sorrow and disgust at the plight of the town.

“Why name this place Rainbow Creek if it was built to house such a destructive evil?” he asked.

“For a time, the evil was locked away. The magic that bound this evil drew its strength from the people. If they were honorable and selfless, the door grew stronger. But if the people’s heart turned selfish and cruel, the door weakened. Good people were welcomed here, encouraged to settle,” Degan explained.

“The magic had to draw its power from the environment, not from the spell caster, because the door was meant to stand throughout time,” Degan added.

“Well the people are suffering now because of that philosophy,” Aric argued.

Suddenly, Degan stopped, surprising Aric.

“What is it?” Aric asked.

Degan slowly scanned the horizon.

“I do not know,” Degan said, his eyes studying the shadows. “I felt something brush past me.”

Aric glanced around then looked down at Tolora. Frozen in her steps, her ears back, she closely followed the movement of something up the road ahead of them. When she began a low growl, Aric glanced up and saw that moving out of the shadowed fields were stooped people, plodding along on weakened legs.

“Up ahead,” he motioned to Degan.

Degan turned to see the shambling town folks.

“Survivors,” he explained. “Good.”

“I am not certain how good this is,” Aric replied.

“What do you mean?” Degan asked.

When no reply came, Degan looked over at Aric and found an empty saddle. Behind him in the road, he saw that Aric had been torn from his horse by a humanoid mass of roots and dirt, its long vines stretching out from twisted limbs. One of the vines encircled Aric’s throat and dangled him in the air above. Aric frantically clawed at his throat trying to free himself as he gasped for breath.

Published in: on December 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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