Dragon Fire: Episode 47

When Cerros entered the opening in the tree, the air was stale and cold. After fashioning a torch from flat strips of wood he had set ablaze, he walked through the fields of his boyhood, now a place of death and sorrow. Moving among the graves that now filled the countryside,  most dug by his own hands, Cerros bent down and rested his hand upon the soft grass of the grave of Erlin, the woman he had once called wife. He had buried her with their only child, a son Cadrus. Cerros’ throat tightened, and his heart ached as he remembered.

“Erlin, please. You are not yourself. It is the curse,” Cerros had pleaded, holding out his hand.

But she only growled and raised the knife with the bloodied dead body of Cadrus at her feet.

“Please, my wife,” Cerros wept.

Erlin howled like a wild animal and ran toward him.

Cerros lifted himself from the ground, leaving the memory behind as he continued toward the castle. Through the narrow unpaved city streets he walked past the empty wooden houses that once held families. At the end of harvest, they had gathered here for fairs and games. Now all were gone, leaving only the whispers of prayers for the dead.

Cerros reached the steps of the castle, its walls looming high above the cavern floor. The great iron gates protecting the castle grounds swung open without protest. Walking up the long steps, Cerros reached the front doors and pushed them open, stopping just a few feet in. The gray stone floor was streaked with blood where so many had died. Every drop had a story of a soul that once breathed life. But one spot was sacred. It spoke to Cerros deeply. He bent down and lovingly rested his hand on the crimson stain where his son had fallen.

From the moment Cerros escaped the cavern, he swore that once the witch was dead, he would return to join his family in death. Three days he had stayed beside the bodies of his wife and child hoping for death that never came. On the fourth day, he awoke to find a strange object beside him, a glowing stone emitting a faint hum. When Cerros touched it, he heard a message that had been enclosed within the jewel.

“Cerros, I know that you long for death, yet you must keep hope. The day of your rest will come. But until it is your time to pass over, you must remain. Once you use the power of the stone, you will join your wife and child with no parting. Before that day, the stone will prove useless to you for it will not yet be needed.  It will tell you when to act. Be brave, my child, for soon you will know sweet unbroken peace.”

After hearing the message, Cerros had bent his knees in sorrow and wept. When he regained his strength, he slipped the stone in his satchel, strapped a sword to his back, and left the cavern with the intention of one day returning and retrieving his hoard of weapons and armor. That day would be the first day counting down to his death.

Now Cerros rose and turned away from the spilt blood of his family. He took a deep breath, steadied himself, and continued up the stairs to his chambers.

At the end of his slow climb, he reached the top room and opened the doors. A wave of sad memories rushed toward him and he reached out for support. Moving his hand away from the wall, he slowly walked across the floor to a large ominous wardrobe with a single lock. The lock had no key, and only Cerros could open it. When he touched it with his fingertips, the lock fell away and the wardrobe doors opened. The light from the torch reflected off the gleaming metal. He reached out and placed a hand on the cold steel, still smooth after all these years. Closing his eyes, he slipped his hand into his pocket and felt the stone hum for a moment. The time was near. Soon he would be reunited with his family.

 

 

*          *            *

A long time had passed since Cerros disappeared into the opening of the tree, leaving behind Brius, Olds, and Razham.

“How much longer?” Olds asked.

Brius looked up at the sky and after a moment said,

“Not much longer, my friend.”

Ill at ease, Razham paced the woods. He wished to leave this cursed place.

As if summoned by his fear, Razham suddenly heard moaning and looked up to see many  dead shambling among the trees as though drawn by the cursed ground. With Cerros still away, Razham would have to defend Brius and Olds on his own. He was the only warrior among them. He made himself ready, all the while hoping when Cerros returned, the three men would still be alive to greet him.

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Published in: on March 15, 2014 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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