Dragon Fire: Episode 93

Late that night in the palace dungeon, Allaster sat on the floor of his cell, chained to the wall as he watched the rats scurry back and forth across the cold stone patiently waiting for the prisoner to surrender to death. Allaster considered all he had lost as he thought back over his life. First, wolves killed his mother as she gathered firewood at the edge of the forest. Then his father died on the battlefield of Ethion. The only light in his dismal childhood was Princess Lillian, and in a matter of hours, he would lose her as well. His father used to tell him there was a time and place for everything. Soldiers did not cry on the battlefield, and Allaster knew he was in a fight for his life. He had fixed his heart on hope, determined not to yield to despair, but as the hours passed, his resolve weakened and he broke down and wept until his tears were spent and he slipped into a troubled sleep.


*          *          *


Allaster woke suddenly to a rapping on his cell door. When he lifted his head, he saw through the bars of the cell door High Priest Zephryses flanked by two of his personal guards.

“You were having a nightmare it seems,” Zephryses said.

“Oh sir, have you come to help?” Allaster asked, knowing the answer the moment the question escaped his lips.

Zephryses laughed, “Dear me no. I have come for another reason.”

With a wave of his hand, the cell door unlocked and opened.

Giving orders for his men to stand guard, Zephryses stepped inside the cell and stood over Allaster.

“The king is convinced of your heresy. Easily done. However, not everyone is convinced. Tomorrow when you die, I fear the princess will use her influence to plead your innocence. So to guarantee my legacy, you must appear guilty.”

“What do you mean?” Allaster asked.

“I will simply see to it that your alliance with Authrax manifests itself,” Zephryses said.

Zephryses took a step back and from his robe removed a small vial. Black flecks whirled through the deep purple liquid.

“What is that?” Allaster asked recoiling.

“A potion I have been working on. It is not as yet perfected, but its power will serve my purpose,” Zephryses boasted.

Allaster drew back against the wall in fear, struggling to distance himself from the mysterious liquid. But with a wave of his hand and snap of his fingers, Zephryses lifted the helpless Allaster into the air then opened his mouth.

He uncorked the vial, releasing a strange, unpleasant odor, then drew near Allaster and poured the foul mixture down his throat.

“Do not worry, my boy. Tomorrow you will die, but it will not be the last time.”

Allaster choked as the purple liquid made its way down his throat. When the vial was emptied, Zephryses stepped back and Allaster fell to the floor.

Slipping the bottle back into the folds of his robe, Zephryses turned to leave but stopped when he heard Allaster cry out in pain. Looking over his shoulder, he watched as the young man he had once called his son clawed at his stomach and writhed in agony.

“Oh yes. I neglected to tell you about the painful effects of the potion. But have no fear. The pain will soon subside and then you will die,” Zephryses smiled.

As Allaster’s cries grew louder, Zephryses moved his hand in a circle then closed his fingers, sending Allaster into a deep sleep.

“Much better,” Zephryses said. “We must not have your cries disturbing the palace guards.”

Zephryses stepped out of the cell and ordered his guards,

“Stay here until dawn. No one is to see him, especially a wayward princess with illusions of liberation.”


*          *          *



Princess Lillian begged her father to show mercy to Allaster.

“He is innocent, Father. He did not do this!”

At last the king shouted,


Her heart broken, Princess Lillian fled to her chambers. All through the night, she paced the floor, planning how she would free Allaster. She would summon help with the reward of a rich purse. Her mother’s jewelry should buy some loyalty. Once Allaster was free, they would leave the country forever. But Allaster had been accused of joining the Children of Dusk. Would anyone dare to help him? Would they oppose the High Priest? As the sun’s crimson light appeared on the horizon, Lillian knew she had no choice but to charge the pyre and free Allaster herself. She cared not what happened to her nor what her father wished. She would gladly die to save her true love.

She quickly dressed in her hunting clothes and waited in the shadows until she saw the guards leading Allaster out of the dungeon. His hands were bound and his eyes wore a look of hopelessness. With bowed shoulders, he stumbled along, turning his head away as the villagers cursed and threw rotten food at him. Lillian steeled herself as they tied him to the stake. As the guards poured oil over the pyre, King Isembart rose and said,

“On this day, it is with great sorrow that I put to death Allaster—.”

Overcome with grief, the king suddenly stopped to compose himself.

“As a boy, he was like a son to me, but when he grew into a man, he joined the Children of Dusk, lost to the darkness that once poisoned this kingdom. I will not let my people suffer that evil again, so by the law set down by Tobias Ashblood the Great, I decree that Allaster a priest of Authrax will be burned at the stake until dead.”

Turning to Allaster, the king said,

“If you wish forgiveness, now is the time to ask for it.”

Overcome by sorrow, Lillian watched as Allaster struggled to speak, to lift his head and once again plead his innocence.

“You have nothing to say?” King Isembart asked. “No defense to offer?”

When Allaster remained silent, the king nodded toward the executioner then walked away, his chin pressed against his chest.

“This is my chance!” Lillian thought.

But when she tried to race forward, she found that her body was frozen. As though bound with rope, her arms and legs would not move.

One by one, the guards lit the torches then turned toward the pyre and lit the wood.

Lillian tried to scream but found she could not speak.

The only sound that filled the air were the cries for mercy as the fire consumed the helpless Allaster.

Suddenly the mysterious hold on her disappeared and Lillian fell to the ground unconscious.

The fire climbed higher and raged until it had finished its work. As the flames died and smoke filled the air, the satisfied villagers began to return to their homes. Lillian slowly awoke but had no will to rise. She heard footsteps approaching her and a man’s voice say,

“Your Majesty.”

“What do you want?” Princess Lillian asked.

“My name is Genfyre, and I believe he was innocent.”

Lillian looked up to see Genfyre extending a hand of help.

Reaching up, she took his hand and fought to stand on her trembling legs.

“You do?” the princess asked.

“He was my friend, ma’am,” Genfyre said.

“Look!” someone screamed. “Something stirs!”

Lillian and Genfyre whirled around and saw movement in the ashes of Allaster’s death.

“What sort of magic is this?” Genfyre asked, his eyes widened.

Suddenly a hand covered in soot exploded out of the remains and the form of a man stepped forth from the ashes.

“Who is that?” Genfyre asked

“It is he!” Lillian said, her heart overjoyed. “My one true love!”

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 6:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 25

In a blur of motion, Elizabeth spread her wings and withdrew her weapons. Closing her eyes to block visual distractions, she used her natural radar to move with grace and precision.

Four of Prescott’s men, their rifles raised, surrounded Elizabeth but just seconds before they fired, she dove for the two who were closest. Hooking one with her wing, she spun and hurled him across the bar and through a front window. Then tossing the other into the air, she raised her pistol and shot him before he hit the floor.

“The King?” Nathan asked as he circled Prescott.

“Stay out of my head!” Prescott ordered.

“Why? What are you afraid I’ll find?” Nathan asked.

When Prescott swung out, Nathan ducked and rolled. Then jumping to his feet, he asked,

“Who are you protecting?”

“Stay out of my head!” Prescott snapped.

As Prescott started to move forward, Nathan advised,

“I wouldn’t do that.”

Prescott sneered and just as he took a step closer, one of his men came flying across the room, crashing into Prescott and knocking him over the bar. When Nathan glanced over to check on Elizabeth, he saw she was lifting one of the men in the air by his throat.

“Don’t kill him,” Nathan said.

Elizabeth growled and dropped the man to the floor.

Prescott saw his chance and ran for the exit.

“No!” Elizabeth roared, running after him.

“Wait!” Nathan yelled as he followed her.

When Prescott reached the parking lot, he stopped behind one of his SUVs and struck the fender with his cane. A burst of blue energy flashed, and the SUV went flipping through the air towards Elizabeth.

Just before the vehicle crashed through the front wall of Eight Balls, Nathan grabbed Elizabeth and pulled them both to safety.

When they hurried outside through the gaping hole left by the SUV, they saw that Prescott had fled.

Police cruisers tore into the parking lot and Crescent Bay’s finest jumping out, weapons drawn.

“Freeze!” one officer yelled at Elizabeth. “Drop your weapons!”

Elizabeth, her adrenaline still pumping, tightened her grip on her weapon.

“Wait, Elizabeth,” Nathan said, placing his hand over hers.

“Get down on your knees and place your hands on your head!” Detective French demanded.

“They’re innocent,” Jericho said, stepping in front of Nathan and Elizabeth.

“Jericho, move out of the way,” French ordered.

“Are you okay, Jericho?” Nathan asked.

“My head’s going to be ringing for a while, but I’ll live,” Jericho said.

Just then, Detective Cassandra Shields arrived on the scene.

When she jumped out of the cruiser, she ordered the officers,

“Stand down! He’s with us.”

Shields walked over to Jericho and looked past him to Nathan.

“What happened?” she asked.

“They started it,” Nathan said with a sheepish smile.


*          *          *


After being questioned most of the night about the scene at Eight Balls, Nathan was finally sent home.

He spent the next eight hours trying to catch some z’s, but when dawn’s light peeked through the draperies of Elizabeth’s condo, Nathan gave up and hopped into the shower.

As he quickly dressed, he made a plan then left the building, hopped on his bike, and headed for Pearson Plasma Technologies.

Pearson Plasma stood tall and bright, its panels glistening in the morning sun. The long public pool that ran from the parking lot to the stairs leading up to the front door was filled with kids playing and splashing, their innocent laughter lifting Nathan’s spirits.

Nathan left his bike in the parking lot and headed for the front entrance. When he passed a placard posted near the pool, he stopped to read.

Pearson Plasma Technologies’ public pool and playground are dedicated to all the children of Crescent Bay. These facilities were built by Milford Pearson, Crescent Bay’s beloved hero known as Knightlight. Mr. Pearson loved children and said their laughter always gave him strength.

Nathan looked across the street at the playground, swarming with happy children, and breathed deeply, taking it all.

“So what is this place?” Elizabeth asked.

Nathan turned to face Elizabeth.

“Are you following me?”

“Yep,” Elizabeth replied. “Don’t trust you on your own.”

Nathan shook his head in mild exasperation.

“So tell me what this place is,” Elizabeth repeated.

“Started by one of Crescent Bay’s earliest superheroes, Milford Pearson, also known as Knightlight, Pearson Plasma Technologies uses an engine invented by Pearson that could generate super-heated plasma for use in weapons and engines. When he retired, Pearson put his engine designs to use in ridding Crescent Bay of its dependency on fossil fuels. His empire invests in hospitals, aeronautics, and shipping. Plus, over the years, it has secured a lot of government contracts. Today, Pearson’s company is worth $10 billion. When he died, sixty per cent of the company stock went to investors he had handpicked with the other forty per cent going to his son Brian Pearson.”

Elizabeth watched Nathan as he shared the information,

When he finished, she said,

“You know, you should be a tour guide.”

Ignoring her comment, Nathan added,

“This is where Martin Armstrong works. He’s chairman of the board of directors.”

“What about Brian Pearson?” Elizabeth asked.

“Retired a few years ago. His grandson Brian hasn’t fully assumed control. Right now he still answers to the board of directors,” Nathan explained.

Elizabeth followed Nathan past the pool and through the front doors. The inside of Pearson Plasma was clinical white with neutral tone back accents. Monitors throughout the main floor played videos advertising the company’s goals and current projects. As soon as Nathan and Elizabeth stepped forward, a young man approached with a smile of welcome.

“Hello. I’m Jeff. How may Pearson Plasma help you today?” Jeff asked.

“We’re here to see Mr. Armstrong,” Nathan answered.

“Do you have an appointment?” Jeff asked.

“No, we do not. Just tell Mr. Armstrong it’s regarding Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan said.

“One moment please,” Jeff responded.

Jeff moved away a few steps as he spoke into an earpiece. A minute later, he returned and said,

“I’m afraid Mr. Armstrong will not be able to speak with you at this time. But if you would like to make an appointment, I can help you with that.”

Nathan glanced at the large clock on the wall. It was almost 9:30 a.m. He looked back at Jeff and said,

“I’d like to make an appointment for 9:30.”

“I’m afraid that time is already filled,” Jeff apologized, after checking a tablet he held in his hand.

“That appointment is about to cancel,” Nathan informed.

“Really?” Jeff said in surprise. Then checking his tablet again, he said,

“I don’t see. . .,” Jeff began. After a pause, he said, “It would appear that Mr. Armstrong’s 9:30 just canceled. Let me fit you in.”

Jeff punched in something on the tablet before saying,

“All set. Mr. Armstrong will see you now.”

“Thanks,” Nathan said with a smile.

As Nathan and Elizabeth rode the elevator up to Mr. Armstrong’s office, Elizabeth said,

“I remember my dad telling me about Knightlight, but I never really knew much about him until now.”

“Milford Pearson was ahead of his time with the invention of his plasma engine. He named the hero he created Knightlight because a nightlight is used to comfort children. By using the word knight, he hoped to create a sense of bravery and chivalry that kids could aspire to. Pearson really loved kids. That’s why he had that pool and playground built in front of Pearson Plasma.”

When the elevator doors opened, Elizabeth followed Nathan through a series of busy hallways and crowded offices until they came to a large door. Just as they reached out for the handle, the door swung open and a man stormed out.

“I don’t care what you think! We’re doing it my way!” he shouted.

As the young man headed down the hall, Elizabeth asked,

“Who on earth was that?”

“Brian Pearson, grandson of Milford Pearson and heir to the family fortune.”

“He seems pretty angry,” Elizabeth said.

“Frustrated for sure. He’s not old enough yet to take control of the company, and right now the board is fighting his every decision,” Nathan explained.

When they stepped inside the office, Nathan and Elizabeth heard Martin Armstrong instruct his secretary,

“Nancy, cancel my 9:30. I’m going to be on the phone for a while.”

“That would be me, Mr. Armstrong,” Nathan called out.

Armstrong looked up and when he saw Nathan and Elizabeth, he said,

“No supers. I have nothing to say about the bombing. Talk to my attorney.”

“It’s about Daniel Lincoln,” Nathan explained. “I have just a few questions.”

“As I said, talk to my attorney,” Armstrong instructed.

“In fact,” Armstrong said, pulling out his cell phone and hitting the speed dial, “You can talk to him yourself.”

Nathan was close enough to hear ringing, but no one answered.

“Why isn’t he picking up?” Armstrong wondered.

Suddenly, Nathan got a flash of a man wearing a cardigan sweater jammed over a bomb vest. He was sweating profusely, and panic filled his eyes as the phone strapped to the bomb began to ring. Nathan snapped out of his vision and leapt at Armstrong’s phone.

“Wait!” Nathan yelled.

Surprised by the aggression, Armstrong pulled back the cell phone.

“What’s wrong with you?” Armstrong asked.

Before Nathan could answer the question, an explosion went off nearby, shaking the building and blowing out the windows.

Unsettled: Episode 7

His hand gripping the bloody hammer, Charles Heath looked down at what remained of Dale Tanner. He watched as Tanner struggled to draw his last breath. Heath had to admit this attack had been just the stress relief he needed after William Brannon almost ruined his escape. From the look of Tanner, a couple more strikes was all he could hope for. Just as he raised the hammer, the lights went out.

Heath froze then looked up toward the ceiling.

“What is it, sir?” Heath’s security guard asked.

“Brannon’s here,” Heath said.

“In that case, sir, I recommend we leave at once,” the guard advised. “There’s a helicopter waiting on the roof to take you to safety.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” Heath said. Then after a pause he added,

“I’m done here.”

Heath handed the claw hammer to the security guard, exchanging it for his pistol. Then turning to Tanner, he smiled,

“Thank you. This was just what I needed.”

Tanner looked at Heath through his swollen bloody eye. He saw Heath raise the pistol and heard the shot just before he slipped into eternity.

After holstering the pistol, Tanner removed his gloves and stuffed them into his pockets. Running his fingers through his short hair, he said,

“Now we can go.”

Exiting Tanner’s office, they headed for the stairs leading up to the roof and the helicopter.


*          *          *



When the lights cut out, Rowan felt his heart race. With trembling hands, he reached out and switched on his tactical flashlight, at the same time ordering the men to follow suit. A surge of panic ran up his spine when he saw that Brannon had disappeared.

“Sweep the room,” he ordered. “Keep your radios on. Target is in the area.”

After searching the room twice, Rowan called out to his men,

“Anyone see anything? Check in.”

Four of the five men gave an all clear. After a moment, Rowan called to the man who had not responded.

“Alexander, check in.”

“Sorry, sir. Thought I saw something. All clear,” Alexander answered.

Rowan ordered the men,

“Keep your eyes open. He’s here somewhere.”

Suddenly Alexander’s tactical light went out.

“Alexander!” Rowan called out.

When no answer came, Clark, the man nearest Alexander, said,

“I’ll check, sir.”

Rowan watched as Clark’s tactical light turned in the direction Alexander had last been seen. Clark did a quick sweep and came back on the radio,

“There’s no sign of him, sir.”

“Keep at it. He has to be there somewhere,” Rowan replied.

Before Clark could respond, another tactical light on the opposite side of the room went out.

“Carter, turn your light back on,” Rowan ordered.

When Carter did not answer, Rowan knew he was losing control of the situation.

“Someone check on Carter.”

Before anyone could respond, Clark’s tactical light went off.

With three men missing, Rowan slowly backed up towards the wall. There were only two men left.

“What are you?” Rowan asked into the darkness.

“There’s no sign of Carter, sir,” Briggs replied.

“Keep looking!” Rowan snapped.

Before Briggs could answer, his light went out.

In a panic, Rowan began frantically to sweep the room.

“Please don’t kill me,” he whispered.

“Forget this,” Granger said. “I’m out of here!”

Rowan watched as Granger’s tactical light moved toward the front door. Suddenly it stopped. Rowan tried to shine his light toward Granger but was terrified of what he might see. Then he heard a slow click that echoed off the walls as Granger’s light went out.

Rowan could hear his heartbeat in his ears as he slowly stepped toward the front door. The only light in the room was his tactical light and a low glow from the streetlamp outside. He figured that if he could just make it to the front door, he could escape with his life. The other men were on their own. His knees shaking, he inched his way toward the front door of the lobby, moving his light from left to right as he went. When he was about halfway to the door, the lights suddenly came on, blinding Rowan for a moment before he adjusted his eyes to the light. The room was empty. No sign of his men. No blood. No equipment.

As a chill ran up his spine, Rowan did what he’d seen every stupid teenager do in every horror movie he’d ever watched. Instead of running for his life, he slowly turned around, sensing something was behind him.

Standing just a couple of feet behind him with one fist clenched and the other open was William Brannon.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Rowan whimpered.

Then he screamed as the last thing he saw was Brannon diving for him.


*          *          *



Leo Walker and Chad Burns, two of Heath’s men, were stationed in the second floor hall leading to the editor’s office. Both were under orders to stay behind and cover Mr. Heath’s escape. A few moments after the lights came back on, they heard someone downstairs crying for help.

“What is that racket down there? Sounds like a bunch of little girls,” Walker sneered.

“With Rowan in charge, could be anything,” Burns said.

“In charge? That guy is useless!” Walker said.

“All they have to do is deal with one guy while the boss escapes,” Burns said.

“Leave it to Rowan to make a mess. No telling what he’s up to,” Walker said.

At the entrance to the hallway, a man suddenly appeared. Taking a few purposeful strides, he stopped in full view of Walker and Burns.

“Hey! Isn’t that the Brannon guy Mr. Heath warned us about?” Walker asked.

“Well he’s not one of our idiots,” Burns replied.

“That’s far enough. We’ll shoot if you come any closer,” Walker ordered Brannon.

“Heath said not to kill him,” Burns whispered.

“If it’s down to my life or his, I’m shooting the guy,” Walker said.

“Turn around now!” Burns yelled.

Keeping a steady eye on the two men, Brannon did not move.

“Who is this guy?” Walker asked.

“I don’t know. Mr. Heath didn’t say much about him. Just said he’s important and not to kill him,” Burns replied.

All of a sudden, Brannon began walking forward.

“Stop right there! Don’t come any closer!” Burns demanded.

Brannon ignored the warning and kept walking.

“Forget this! I’m shooting him!” Walker said, taking aim.

Suddenly the lights went out, plunging the hallway into darkness.

Published in: on January 22, 2018 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Update delay:

I’m sorry but due to severe health issues there will be a delay in the update. My most sincere apologies.

Published in: on January 16, 2018 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Train: Episode 79

“I’m sorry, a demon in the form of a man?” Nicole asked, looking highly skeptical.

“Let me start at the beginning,” Serena said.

“Father Salvatore came to us three years ago and turned this place around. Please walk with me,” Serena asked.

While she explained, she led them to the main building and the pool. All the guests seemed to be getting along well, laughing and playing in the water, visiting by the pool.

“What was this place before?” Michael asked.

“Before Father Salvatore, it was pretty much empty except for a few bikers and drug addicts. But Father Salvatore changed everything, made this into a resort and spa, a place of peace and relaxation.”

“What about Morgan?” Nicole asked.

With an intense glare, Serena turned to face Nicole.

“Do not let anyone hear you call him by that name. No one here except those loyal to Father Salvatore calls him by his given name. They must call him Saint Suriel.”

“So he’s Saint Suriel unless you say otherwise,” Michael said. “Got it.”

Serena’s glare melted into a sweet smile, and she beckoned them to follow her.

“Come. Let us go meet the guests.”

She whipped her hair around in the breeze for a moment then headed for the pool.

“Did we have to get one of the inmates to show us around this asylum?” Michael laughed.

“I’m afraid for now, she’s all we have,” Nicole said.

“Just once I’d like to get help from someone who’s actually helpful,” Michael sighed.

As they approached the pool, an older man, his black hair thinning on top, slipped out of the water and walked over to them. He wore a rosy smile as he shifted a little girl from his right arm to his left.

Extending his right hand, he greeted,

“Hello. I’m Marvin Clark and this little angel is my daughter Judy. That’s my wife Susan with our boys Gordon and Paul.”

Marvin pointed to a redheaded woman in the pool, the length of her bright hair floating in the water as she played with two small boys.

“So what’s your name, or do I get to make up one for you?” Marvin asked.

“Pete Shepherd,” Michael said smiling.

“This is my sister Erika,” Michael said, pointing to Nicole.

As Marvin shook Nicole’s hand, Michael pointed to Dr. Ricer and added,

“And that’s my dad David and my niece Marie.”

“A pleasure to meet you all,” Marvin said. “Please, let me introduce you to everyone here.”

As they followed Marvin around the pool greeting people and shaking hands, Nicole watched the windows and scanned the open areas of Tearmann River Spa & Resort. Everything seemed normal, nothing out of the ordinary.

“My name’s Brad. Let me show you to your rooms,” a young man said as he approached them.

“We don’t have rooms,” Nicole answered.

Cursing herself for speaking without thinking, she realized she had become so wrapped up in the calm of the resort that for a moment she’d forgotten why they were there.

“Yes you do,” the attendant said.

“Serena told me your rooms were assigned late due to a mix-up on our part, but she’s sorted out everything. You’ll be staying in Maple. We’ve put you in adjoining rooms with a beautiful view of the gardens.”

Brad pointed to one of the larger buildings close to the main building.

“We apologize for the loss of your bags. Serena said they arrived but were misplaced. Entirely our fault. We’ll bring them to your rooms as soon as we find them. In the meantime, we will provide clothes for you and anything else you need. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your rooms,” Brad cheerfully said.

“Thank you,” Nicole smiled.

“Oh Pete,” she called to Michael who was talking to a young couple. “We’re going to see our rooms.”

* * *

The Maple building was decorated with polished wood paneling and soft grey carpet. Soothing music played over invisible speakers as a fountain’s streams of water cascaded over polished rocks creating a restful, tranquil atmosphere.

“Here we are,” Brad said, stopping just down the hall from the fountain.

“The dining room serves breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and of course you may have meals delivered to your room if you’d prefer,” he said while opening the door. “Each of the rooms has an itinerary of events. Everything is included in your admission fee. No hidden charges. Our goal here at Tearmann River Spa & Resort is to make certain your stay is happy and peaceful.”

When Brad finished with the information, he handed Michael three room keys.

“We can arrange for a wakeup call over the phone or in person. Might I suggest you start your stay here with a relaxing massage? I find its the best way to unwind and fully enjoy your day.”

“Sounds great,” Michael responded.

“One last thing, the gates will close after midnight, but the grounds are always open to any of our guests who wish to enjoy the stars, the fireflies, or maybe a romantic tryst in the moonlight,” Brad informed.

With a slight bow, he said,

“I shall leave you to relax and settle in. Thank you for choosing Tearmann River Spa & Resort.”

Then he clasped his palms together, and pressing them against his chest, he sighed,

“Have a blessed day.”

Michael waited until Brad was gone and said,

“Well that was creepy.”

“He seemed nice,” Ricer said.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not used to the whole smile and wave happy family thing. Always puts me off,” Michael replied.

“Most likely the knowledge of the impending mass murder has you off about this place,” Ricer suggested.

“No, Doc, it’s this place,” Nicole said. “I’ve been to plenty of places like this, but this one is different. Something about it makes me feel like I’m being hunted.”

“I didn’t get that impression, but I do agree with you that this place is an 11 on the creepy scale,” Michael said.

“What about the people you talked to?” Ricer asked Michael.

“Okay. I met five couples and several singles. Most of the singles were just doing what single people do. I had two girls hit on me, which is odd because girls never hit on me. Let’s see. What else? Oh yeah. Marvin and his wife Susan aren’t the only ones with kids. Another couple Thomas and Charlotte are expecting their first child. Charlotte’s two months pregnant, so they came here to enjoy one last romp before their child is born.”

“Any word on Scott Morgan?” Nicole asked.

“Now, now. Remember it’s Saint Suriel,” Michael corrected.

Nicole rolled her eyes and began to check the room.

“Nothing yet, but I did notice one thing. The staff is always close by, always within earshot and always watching the guests. It’s almost like we’re being guarded, not tended to,” Michael pointed out.

Suddenly the doorknob of the adjoining room, Michael’s room, began to turn. Michael moved Ricer and Lucy out of the way as Nicole reached for her pistol.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 92

The next morning, Zephryn woke to the rumble of distant thunder. For just a moment, he indulged himself, letting his mind drift back to Lillian’s night visit, her soft kiss before she stole away. With a heavy sigh, he rose to his feet and walked over to the window. Looking up into the heavens, he saw that the sky was filled with dark clouds. An approaching storm. He quickly said his morning prayers then left his chambers, heading for the castle and the meeting with King Isembart.

As Zephryn crossed the courtyard, an unseasonably cold wind struck him, stirring leaves and dust in its path.

“Good morning, Priest Zephryn. Unusual weather for this morning, is it not?” Caulder, a local fruit vendor, said to Zephryn as he passed.

“Good morning, Caulder. Yes, it is, but nothing to fear,” Zephryn smiled.

“Thank you,” Caulder sighed with relief.

“Blessings upon you,” Zephryn replied.

Zephryn’s thoughts were filled with the beautiful Lillian as he hurried to his meeting. Nothing could dampen his spirits. When his father died, leaving him an orphan, Zephryn had no hope, his only future begging on the streets. But in his mercy, the high priest Zephryses found him and raised him as his own son. Now he held a high seat in the church and every day could see the woman who won his heart. Truly the gods were favoring him.

“You are looking well,” Genfyre said catching up with Zephryn.

“Yes. I enjoyed a good rest and was blessed with a dreamless sleep,” Zephryn smiled.

“Alas, I did not get to my bed until quite late,” Genfyre said.

“Something troubles you?” Zephryn asked.

“No, no. When we reached the home of Hannable, we discovered that his daughter Ahnkaret had been awakened by a frightful dream and would not close her eyes again in sleep. Hannable insisted on staying up with her, convincing his wife Anastas to let them play hide and seek out in the front yard. I, of course, was pulled into the game,” Genfyre laughed. “I can deny my niece nothing.”

“My brother may be skilled in hunting and combat, but he cannot hide. Everything he chose as a hiding place was much smaller than he,” Genfyre said.

“Perhaps he was hiding poorly for the sake of his daughter,” Zephryn suggested.

“Perhaps,” Genfyre said. “I am just on my way to his house. Enjoy this glorious day, my friend.”

“You as well,” Zephryn said.

The market was coming to life as Zephryn ascended the steps of the castle. Just as he reached out for the front doors, they opened.

Standing in the doorway was the Princess Lillian, her eyes bright with merriment. She wore a sky blue gown, and her gleaming hair was pulled back with matching ribbons. Zephryn’s gaze traveled the length of her graceful neck. If only he could touch her, kiss her as his heart commanded.

Instead, he said,

“Good morning, Princess Lillian. I have come to speak with King Isembart.”

Lillian smiled and responded,

“He is expecting you.”

As she escorted Zephryn through the passageways, she repeatedly brushed against him, touching his hand. And with each touch, she politely excused herself.

When they finally entered the king’s court, Lillian announced,

“Father, I found Priest Zephryn at the door. He says he is here to speak with you.”

With a jolly smile, King Isembart reached out and hugged Zephryn.

“Greetings, my boy. What brings you here this morning?”

Trying to recover from the king’s crushing embrace, Zephryn took a deep breath and said,

“High Priest Zephryses regrets that he cannot attend the meeting with King Stephanus. He is in his private sanctum conducting his morning prayers and cannot be disturbed. He sent me in his stead.”

At this announcement, King Isembart’s posture quickly shifted from cheerful to restrained anger.

“Peace between Ethion and Acimeth is delicate, and a union of marriage would ease tension between our two countries as well as heal old wounds. The importance of today’s meeting is beyond mere words! You have done well, my boy, to come here as the high priest’s representative, but I will have the high priest himself in attendance today! His far-reaching reputation is one of the reasons King Stephanus agreed to meet. I do not care that Zephryses is otherwise engaged. Return to him and tell him that his king demands his presence now!” Isembart shouted.

“Yes, your majesty,” Zephryn replied, bowing.

Lillian protested, “But, Father, Zephryn is more than capable of—”.

“No!” Isembart snapped.

Zephryn hurried out of the castle and rushed to the church to retrieve the high priest Zephryses.

Racing through the halls of the church, Zephryn pushed past the high priest’s assistants until he made his way to the private sanctum of Zephryses. Taking a deep breath for courage, Zephryn pushed open the door and stepped inside.

“My apologies, High Priest, but King Isembart insists on your presence at once,” Zephryn explained.

As soon as the words were spoken, Zephryn’s eyes grew wide as he seemed paralyzed by what he saw before him. His chest bared, Zephryses stood in the center of a pool of blood encircled by a ring of fire. His skin was covered with cuts and markings Zephryn had never seen before. With his left hand, he held a woman by a rope tied around her neck, and with his right palm open towards her face, he drew a blackish energy from her eyes and mouth. Zephryn could hear the woman trying to scream, but only a low gurgle escaped her mouth. Behind her, suspended in midair, hung the emaciated body of a man, blood trickling down his arms and legs. From his mouth poured a black fluid, running down his chin and dripping to the floor. The high priest Zephryses turned and with oil black eyes, screeched,

“Get out!”

Zephryn managed to turn and flee from the room in a state of shock. His blood rushed through his veins, his heart raced, and he felt as though he might fall to the stone floor senseless. He could neither fathom the horror he had seen nor speak a word of it to anyone.

Behind him he heard the high priest screaming,

“Guards! Find Priest Zephryn and bring him to me at once!”

Fleeing from the church, Zephryn stumbled out into the courtyard, gulping the fresh air. His head was spinning.

“What should I do? Where can I go?. . .Lillian!”

Now seized with desperation, Zephryn ran for the castle, pushing aside vendors and knocking over stalls as he scrambled to get away. Once he reached the castle, he bounded up the stone steps, pulled open the doors and ran inside, hurrying to King Isembart. But when he reached the king’s quarters, he slid to a stop. Standing beside the king was Zephryses the high priest.

“Seize him!” the king commanded.

“No!” Lillian screamed as the guards descended upon Zephryn.

“What has he done?” Lillian demanded. “What crime has he committed to receive such treatment?”

“He came to my chambers, and when he saw that I was not there, he engaged in unspeakable acts of heresy. When I returned to my chambers a moment later, I saw him offering up a prayer to Authrax. I am sorry, my king, but it seems Zephryn has joined the children of dusk,” the high priest accused.

Turning toward Zephryn, the king said,

“You will no longer bear a holy name,” King Isembart commanded. “Henceforth, you will take up the name of your birth Allaster. You will be thrown into the dungeon, and at the first rays of dawn will be burned at the stake for heresy.”

“But, Father, he is innocent!” Lillian cried. “You will see this truth when the gods deliver him.”

“Take him away!” King Isembart ordered.

As the guards dragged Zephryn away, Lillian dropped to her knees heartbroken, her tears splashing against the stone floor.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Prophet of Starfall: Episode 24

Not sure what to do, the bartender at Eight Ball’s looked nervously from Nathan to Elizabeth.

“Look, Jacob,” Nathan said. “May I call you Jacob?”

“My name’s Bam Bam,” the bartender growled.

“Jacob, I don’t want any trouble. I j—.”

Nathan suddenly stopped and asked,

“Bam Bam? Really?”

The bartender responded with a scowl, keeping his eyes fixed on Elizabeth as she picked up a knife off the bar, slowly bent the blade into a circle, dropped it then checked her nails.

“Look, Jacob, what I need is a package left here by Daniel Lincoln. I know he frequented this place,” Nathan insisted.

When the bartender didn’t budge, Nathan sighed,

“C’mon, Jacob. His name is scribbled by the dartboard on the list of scores to beat, and the initials DL are carved into this bar right there,” Nathan said pointing. “Besides, you have his picture on the wall behind you with ‘Pay first. No credit’ written across it.”

Then he leaned over and whispered,

“Listen, Jacob. Daniel’s dead. Somebody blew him up, and the package you’re hiding for him might give me a clue as to who killed him.”

“Lincoln’s dead?” Jacob asked.

Nathan held up both fists then expanded his fingers while mouthing the word boom.

“Hey!” someone yelled from across the bar.

Nathan slowly turned to see a giant of a man standing well over six feet, his arms like tree branches as he flexed his thick muscles. Shoving aside the bar patrons in his path, he slowly made his way through the crowd and stopped just short of the bar.

“Meta or not, no one comes into my bar and throws my boys around,” he barked.

“And who are you?” Elizabeth asked.

“Let me introduce you to Hank,” Nathan explained, “or as his friends call him, Jackal. He owns this place.”

“That’s right, pal, and no two-bit supers are going to come in here and threaten me or my boys. We don’t bend to The Shadows, and we won’t bend to you,” Hank asserted.

“Now this should be fun,” Elizabeth smiled. “I skipped the gym this morning, so I’ve been looking for something to balance that out.”

“You may be tough, lady, but you ain’t bulletproof!” Hank sneered.

“Let’s go,” Elizabeth challenged, taking a step forward.

“Wait,” Nathan said, reaching out to stop Elizabeth.

“What?” Elizabeth asked.

“Our buddy Hank is right. You’re not bulletproof,” Nathan pointed out.

“What?” Elizabeth asked in surprise.

Just then front doors swung open and Jericho stepped in.

“But he is,” Nathan smiled.

Suddenly the bar went quiet and Hank took a step back as Jericho walked through the crowd to Nathan and Elizabeth.

“What are you doing here?” Elizabeth asked him.

“He’s been tracking us,” Nathan said.

Outraged, Elizabeth snapped, “What?”

“Now don’t be upset, Elizabeth. I know Nathan can be a bad influence on you,” Jericho teased.

Then he turned to face Hank. Although Hank stood a full three inches taller than Jericho, he slowly backed down.

“They attacked two of my patrons,” Hank said, his voice a bit softer.

“Well I’m sure they didn’t want to, and I’m certain they’re sorry,” Jericho said.

Turning to Nathan and Elizabeth, Jericho asked, “Aren’t you?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes, paused then nodded reluctantly.

“See? No problem,” Jericho said.

Nathan turned back around to Jacob and asked,

“Now, Jacob, what about that package?”

Without a word, Jacob left the bar and disappeared into a back room.

“It’s a good thing my meeting with the mayor ended early. What are you two doing here in Sandy Grotto anyway?” asked Jericho.

“The victim Daniel Lincoln lived just up the street from here,” Nathan said.

“And you’re investigating his murder alongside the police?” Jericho asked.

“Sure we are,” Nathan answered, turning away from Jericho.

“Nathan, what’s going on? I don’t mind helping out, but I don’t like getting involved with a murder investigation outside police jurisdiction.”

“Oh we’re not,” Elizabeth assured him. “Detective Shields knows we’re involved.”

Jericho’s eyes grew wide as he asked,

“Cassandra’s involved in this?”

Then he paused and relaxed.

“Well if she knows, I guess you’re okay.”

Jericho turned away trying to hide the blush that crept up his cheeks.

Before Nathan could make any snide remarks, the door behind the bar opened and Jacob came out carrying a thick envelope.

When he dropped it on the bar, he said,

“Daniel told me to hold onto this in case anything happened to him. Look, he was a good guy and we all want whoever killed him to pay.”

Inside the envelope, Nathan found photos of an older man with a younger woman. Pulling some of the pictures free, he spread them out onto the bar.

“Any idea who these people are?” Elizabeth asked.

“Nope,” Jericho said.

Nathan studied the pictures for a moment then said,

“The man is Martin Armstrong, chairman of the board for Pearson Plasma Technologies. The girl is Jessica Alexander, an engineering student at Crescent Bay University.”

The photos seemed innocent enough until Nathan emptied out the rest of the envelope’s contents and saw shots of Armstrong and Alexander in a nightclub, embracing at their table, kissing on the dance floor.

“Armstrong is married but not to Alexander,” Nathan explained.

“You think Lincoln was blackmailing Armstrong and got killed for it?” Elizabeth suggested.

“Good chance,” Jericho replied.

Stuffing the photos back into the envelope, Nathan said,

“We’ll have to question Armstrong and find out.”

“No you won’t,” a voice behind them said.

Turning toward the doorway, Nathan saw Graham Prescott followed by four men. He wore the same dark blue suit from earlier in the day.

“Did I not tell you to stay out of this?” Prescott asked.

“Technically, you threatened me,” Nathan replied.

“You say potato; I say tomato. Point is, you’re still involved. Now I’ve got to rectify that,” Prescott said as he unbuttoned his jacket.

“None of you are cops, so get out, every one of you,” Hank demanded. “I’m not having any metas throwing down in here, messing up my bar. Get out!”

Suddenly a shot rang out and Hank fell backwards dead. Prescott returned the pistol to one of his men then retrieved his cane.

“I wasn’t asking his opinion. Does anyone else here wish to share their thoughts?”

“You’re going to pay for that,” Jericho said, stomping forward.

Slowly, Prescott turned sideways, flipped his cane upside down, and held it like a golf club. When Jericho drew closer, Prescott swung the cane up. As it made contact with Jericho, a flash of blue energy shot out, sending Jericho flying backwards, crashing through the back wall.

Then with a flip of his wrist, Prescott turned the cane right side up and suggested to the crowd,

“Unless you want to die, I’d leave if I were you.”

As bikers stumbled over each other scrambling for the exit, Prescott’s men poured into Eight Ball’s.

“Do what you want with the girl,” Prescott told his men. “Makes no difference to me.”

Then looking towards Nathan he said,

“Since the king’s off limits, I guess I’ll have to settle for the Prophet.”

Unsettled: Episode 6

The building that housed the Coldwater Chronicle had once been a proscenium theater whose doors were closed after the leading lady died on the opening night of the theater’s first major production. It sat empty for years until it was sold and converted into an office building. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the Chronicle, the city’s largest newspaper, had leased the entire upper floor for his staff’s offices. Seated in the largest of the suites was Dale Tanner, the Chronicle’s chief editor. On his desk, papers lay in great stacks, spilling onto the floor, as he scribbled some notes to pass off to one of reporters in the morning. Tanner gave the best of himself to his mistress the Chronicle, and after two failed marriages, he had settled for meaningless affairs with more lovers than he could remember. In his 40 years at the Chronicle, the only thing that remained constant was his paper.

A light rain rolled down the windowpanes as Tanner removed his glasses, resting them on his notes, and stood to stretch his back muscles. He knew he spent too many hours hunched over his desk or staring at the computer screen, but the Chronicle was his baby. Turning to face the window, he watched as the drops splashed against the glass. He remembered when he took the job as editor. He was a handsome young man who could have landed a modeling contract. Now his reflection reminded him that he had more hair over his ears than on his head. Over the years, he had put on so many pounds that he started wearing loafers so he wouldn’t have to reach over his gut to tie his shoes. It had been a long day and was turning into an even longer night. Except for a murder downtown at the police station, the day had been quiet so he couldn’t complain.

His tie felt like a noose, so he loosened the knot and rubbed his temples. Spent and past ready to go home, he sighed,

“I’ll just finish the notes in the morning. I can’t think straight anymore.”

When he turned away from the window, he saw a stranger standing by the door with another man beside him.

“Can I help you?” Tanner asked.

“Yes. I do believe you can,” the man said.

Tanner had been in this business long enough to recognize a dangerous man.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“My name is Charles Heath, and I believe we work for the same gentleman,” Heath said walking into the room. “Councilman Parker sent me.”

Tanner knew where this was going and he had to stop it at once.

“Look, you can tell Parker that just because I helped him one time doesn’t mean he owns me. I only buried that story because his daughter was fresh out of rehab. I’m not burying anything else for him,” Tanner clarified.

“Oh something will be buried this night,” Heath said, “but it won’t be a story.”

In his right hand, sheathed in a black leather glove, Heath held an old claw hammer with a wooden handle. In his left hand, a nickel-plated revolver.

“You will die tonight. No way around that. Only question is, how would you like to die?” Heath asked.

“What?” Tanner said. “You’re insane! I’m calling the cops!”

As Tanner reached for his cell phone, Heath took two steps forward, closing the gap between them, and struck Tanner across the knee with the hammer.

Screaming in pain, Tanner grabbed his leg and fell to the floor.

“I will ask one more time before I choose for you,” Heath shouted over Tanner’s cries.

Holding up the hammer and revolver, he asked again, “How would you like to die? The hammer or the gun? The choice is really quite simple.”

Terrified and helpless, Tanner managed to answer, “The gun, I guess.”

Heath shrugged then handing the gun to the man behind him replied,

“Personally, I would have gone with the hammer.”

As Heath raised the hammer, Tanner instinctively lifted his hands in defense.

“This will hurt you more than me, but to each his own I guess,” Heath added.

Then with the coldness of a machine, he swung down with the hammer.

* * *

The rain was just beginning to slow as Mavis and Billy pulled up out front at the Coldwater Chronicle. Admiring the building’s decorative stonework, Mavis noticed that the lights seemed to have an ominous glow in the cold rain. As Kristina shut off her motorcycle, Mavis and Billy climbed out of the Jeep.

“This is the place,” she said. “Dale is a good guy. He kind of looks like a troll, but he’s a good man, always working late and coming in early. He practically lives here.”

“You think he’ll know anything about Parker?” Mavis said.

“If anyone does, he will,” Kristina assured her.

“Okay. Then let’s go talk to him,” Mavis said.

Suddenly Billy clamped his hand on Mavis’ arm and Lucas said,

“Wait. It’s not safe. Someone else is here.”

“What makes you say that?” Mavis asked.

Billy released her hand and Jack explained,

“That car up ahead matches the one we were chasing earlier. Based on the amount of water under the car versus on the street and the amount of rain coming down, I would estimate it’s been here for at least five to seven minutes.”

“Heath is here?” Kristina asked.

“It would appear so,” Jack said.

“Everyone stay by the car,” Lucas ordered.

“Wait a minute. You can’t go in there alone,” Mavis pleaded.

“We have to,” Lucas explained. “There are two more vehicles around the side of the building that have been here as long as the one carrying Heath.”

“So?” Kristina asked confused.

“He brought backup,” Dylan said.

“I’d guess eight to ten men, based on how many would fit comfortably in each car,” Jack estimated.

“And they’re probably armed, so you can’t go in alone! Let’s just call the police or at least Ray,” Mavis insisted.

“No, we have to go in now,” Dylan said, “and you’ve got to stay here. It’s not safe for you. Besides, Billy would be distracted.”

“But you can help,” Lucas pointed out.

“How?” Kristina asked before Mavis could protest.

“Wait five minutes then turn off the power. Then wait two minutes and turn the power back on. Then after one minute, turn the power back off and run. I’ll attend to the rest,” Lucas instructed.

When Mavis started to protest, Kristina grabbed her.

“Let’s go!” she said.

* * *

Rowan, one of Heath’s men, stood in the lobby of the Coldwater Chronicle. He and five others guarded the bottom floor while two more men secured upstairs. His job was simple. Watch the front doors. Suddenly he saw a man cross the street and head directly toward the building, his hands balled into fists.

“We’ve got company!” he warned.

The other five men entered the lobby, each armed with a pistol and machine gun with a mounted tactical light.

As the man drew closer, Rowan saw who it was. Mr. Heath had given orders to watch out for him.

“It’s that guy Mr. Heath released from prison,” he said, raising his weapon. “The boss wants him alive, but shoot to kill if necessary.”

A few seconds later, the lobby doors opened and Billy stepped inside.

“Mr. Brannon, Mr. Heath asked you to stay away until he calls for you. I will shoot you, if I have to.”

The look on Billy’s face made Rowan nervous. He took a deep breath to calm his rattled nerves.

“Please leave the building at once or we will open fire,” Rowan warned.

Without a word, Billy stood still, his eyes unblinking.

“Please leave now!” Rowan insisted.

Billy slowly tilted his head to one side, holding Rowan’s gaze.

Suddenly the lights went out, draping the lobby in darkness.

Published in: on December 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Train: Episode 78

“I’m not happy about being here, I can tell you that,” Michael said, growing increasingly uneasy.

“I wish I could say something that would reassure you, but unfortunately, I have nothing beyond what I’ve already told you,” Dr. Ricer said, keeping a tight hold on Lucy.

“There’s a killer here somewhere, like every other mission we’ve dealt with,” Nicole said, “but there is something else, something darker.”

“A malice that sits in the air and blows on the back of your neck,” Michael responded with a shiver.

“We’ve got to be alert, eyes and ears open,” Nicole warned. “Don’t trust anyone!”

“Why don’t we start by establishing our cover then gather some information about this place, who here might be a threat,” Michael suggested.

“Are we certain it’s just one person?” Ricer asked.

“It could be a team,” Nicole said.

“With such a high body count, it follows that there has to be more than one,” Ricer explained.

“Great! Multiple killers,” Michael sighed.

“You said that thirty-seven people were never found. So what if we aren’t dealing with a lone killer or a group but a cult?” Nicole asked.

Then thinking aloud, she added,

“It could still be led by one person, though, with a group of mindless followers.”

“So we have to smash the head of the serpent and the rest should fall,” Michael reasoned.

“That should be easy enough,” Nicole said.

“I agree, but separating him may prove difficult,” Ricer pointed out, “if his followers are willing to die for him.”

“We need to find an informant, someone who can show us around,” Nicole proposed.

“Look, Grandpa,” Lucy said, pointing toward the tree line.

A woman was struggling against two men who were dragging her into the woods. Her hair flew back and forth as she fought against their strength.

“We may have found one,” Michael said.

“Hurry! We have to help her!” Ricer insisted.

Michael ran ahead of the others, and when he was near the woman, he asked,

“What seems to be the problem here?”

He noticed that the two men were dressed in identical light brown cotton clothes, roughly cut.

“No problem, sir. Please return to the main building. We will soon start the grilling for supper, and there will be lively music and dancing in the moonlight for you and your spouse,” one of the men said, displaying a smile with joyless eyes as he tried to distract them. His attention shifted from Michael to Nicole.

“I am not his spouse!” Nicole corrected.

“Yeah, that wouldn’t work out for me,” Michael replied.

Michael could see panic in the woman’s eyes and a plea for help that countered the smooth assurances of the man’s claims.

“Well then might I suggest our singles’ night filled with music and dancing,” the man offered, keeping a tight grip on the woman.

“Now that does sound like fun, but I have a problem,” Michael said, lowering his bag to the ground and opening the flap.

“I just arrived with my friends here, and I can’t seem to locate my cabin. I was hoping you could point me in the right direction?”

“Of course, sir. What room were you assigned?” the man asked.

“Hold up. It’s in here somewhere. Where did I put. . .,” Michael said trailing off.

“He’s always losing stuff,” Nicole smiled as she played along.

After a few seconds of shuffling, Michael finally said,

“Here it is!”

Quickly he pulled out his shotgun and fired one round into each man, throwing them backwards.

Nicole flew at the two men, knocking them out before they could say anything.

Michael pulled some rope out of his bag and tossed a piece to Ricer.

“Quick, Doc. Let’s tie them up and get her to safety,” Michael ordered.

As they secured the two men with the ropes, Ricer noticed that there was no blood.

When he started to ask, Michael said, “Beanbag rounds. Doesn’t kill but it hurts like the devil.”

As Michael and Ricer dragged both men behind a nearby tool shed, Nicole comforted the woman.

Michael stacked one of the men on top the other then headed over to Nicole. When Ricer turned to follow, he glanced back toward the trees where the men had been dragging the woman. For a moment, he thought he saw a tall man wearing an old straw hat and overalls standing just inside the tree line. But when he looked back, the man was gone.

Dismissing it as his imagination, he hurried to Lucy and the others.

“Are you hurt?” Ricer asked the woman.

Holding tightly to Nicole’s arm, she took a deep breath to calm her nerves then let go. Once she smoothed the front of her plain cotton dress, the same color and cut as the clothes of the two men who had held her, she looked up and her eyes met Ricer’s.

“Thank you for rescuing me. My name is Serena, and I usually greet the new guests. I would have remembered you.”

“We just arrived,” Michael said, “and w—.”

“Why were those men trying to carry you off?” Nicole interrupted.

“Because they have been brainwashed,” the woman said with deep sadness.

“Brainwashed? By whom?” Ricer asked.

“Scott Morgan,” Serena said, contempt in her voice.

“Who’s that?” Michael asked.

“Scott Morgan used to work here at the resort. He was my friend, that is until he almost drowned in the river. Father Salvatore saved him, but since that moment, Scott believes he has been chosen, brought back to life to enlighten those who do not share his vision. He took the name Saint Suriel and declared himself a god. Because I refused to worship at his feet, I was to be removed. I know what he did, and I will not be silenced.”

“What did he do?” Nicole asked.

Serena looked at everyone then settled her gaze on Nicole.

“He killed our leader, our patriarch, Father Salvatore, and anyone who refuses to kneel before him is dragged off into the woods never to be seen again.”

“Why the woods? What’s in the woods?” Ricer asked.

“A monster. A demon that has taken the form of a man.”

Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 91

Before Zephryn could respond, he heard the soft melodic laughter of Princess Lillian. When he turned around, she reached up and began kissing him.

After a long tender kiss, Lillian pulled away and smiled at Zephryn, her eyes full of adoration.

Dressed in a long white gown covered by a black hooded cloak, she slipped off the hood and her golden brown hair fell below her shoulders, shimmering in the moonlight. Zephryn felt his heart beat faster and his knees weaken.

“You never could stand on your own,” she teased.

Zephryn shook his head clear and nervously asked,

“Did you come alone? What possessed you to come here?”

“I missed you,” Lillian said, her fingers playing with his hair. “If you think hiding out in this damp old building will keep you safe from me, you are mistaken. I will always find you.”

Then she twirled across the room on the tips of her bare feet.

“But if you are found here, it will be the end of me,” Zephryn warned.

“Who will catch me? No one knows I am here. I sent away my handmaidens and gave the guard strict orders not to disturb me until morning,” Lillian explained.

Overcome with emotion, Zephryn crossed the floor to her and kissed her as though he would never have another chance.

Then he asked,

“Do you know what your father will do if you are caught here?”

Lillian sighed, “He will scold me and punish me, but I do not care. Being with you is worth the risk of his displeasure.”

“I will not receive a scolding, Lillian. You must realize that he will have me executed!” Zephryn pointed out.

“Nonsense!” Lillian insisted, removing her cloak. “I will not allow that.”

“The king does not always listen to you,” Zephryn reminded her.

“Then we will run away together,” Lillian giggled. “I care not whom my father wishes me to marry. I shall tell him that my heart is gone, stolen away by a priest.”

As she twirled on the tips of her toes, her gown billowed and rippled.

“You will be the death of me one day.”

“Then I will send the greatest warrior in the land to find you and bring you back,” Lillian promised, looking deeply into his eyes. “I will always find you, my love. You are mine and no one can take you from me.”

“What if the gods do not want us together?” Zephryn asked.

“Then I will defy them,” Lillian said, lifting her chin in unwavering determination.

Zephryn laughed and acknowledged, “You will surely make a great queen one day.”

Lillian stopped dancing and sat down on the edge of Zephryn’s bed.

“And with you as my king, we will reunite the lands then throw a wildly lavish party and invite no one,” she laughed as she fell back onto the bed.

Gazing at her in wonderment, Zephryn felt truly alive. Every moment away from her was like travelling in shadows for without her, the light was gone.

“The people will never accept me as their king. You know that,” Zephryn said. “Even with your father’s blessing.”

“Then we shall run away together,” Lillian said once again.

She sat up in the bed with a faraway look and watched as a cloud slowly drifted across the face of the glowing moon.

“We will steal two horses and ride off into the night to a land far away where no one knows us, and there we’ll grow old together, husband and wife, father and mother.”

Zephryn let himself imagine, just for a moment, a life with Lillian. His heart seemed to stop as though a single beat would tear him away from the dream.

“Are you ready?” Lillian asked, breaking the spell.

“R-r-ready?” Zephryn stammered.

“To run away together, silly,” she laughed. “I do love it when passion steals away your tongue.”

Suddenly there was a knock at the door and Zephryn jumped.

Lillian quickly rose from the bed and slipped into a dark corner of the room.

When Zephryn opened the door, he saw a servant of the high priest Zephryses.

“Yes?” Zephryn asked.

The servant bowed then said,

“Please forgive my intrusion at this late hour, but I bring a message from the high priest.”

Zephryn took the parchment scroll and broke the seal.

“As you know, tomorrow King Isembart is meeting with King Stephanus of Acimeth to negotiate a union of the two kingdoms through marriage of his daughter Princess Lillian to King Stephanus’ son Prince Lanidus. Although my presence is required, I will be unable to attend due to prayer time in my private sanctum where, as you know, I am not to be disturbed. You are to go in my place.”

While Zephryn read the message, he struggled to ignore Lillian tickling him.

“I will expect a report once I have completed my prayers.”

Zephryn closed the scroll and looked at the waiting servant.

“Tell the high priest I will do my best.”

At that, the servant nodded and turned away as Zephryn closed his chamber door.

He waited a few moments then turned to Lillian.

“Are you mad?” he questioned.

When Lillian did not respond, Zephryn bent down to look under the bed. Lillian jumped out of the shadows giggling.

Whirling around, Zephryn repeated,

“Are you mad? What if he had seen you?”

“Then you would have no choice but to run away with me,” she teased.

“We cannot run away, Lillian. It would break your father’s heart.”

After a pause he added, “And place your brother Nesmoru in line for the throne.”

The smile dropped from Lillian’s face and she grew quiet.

With a sorrowful tone, she said,

“My brother is selfish, wicked, and cowardly. He would tear the kingdom apart.”

“I shall return to my quarters,” she sighed. “Why must you spoil passion with reason?”

“I am sorry, beautiful Lillian, but I must speak the truth,” Zephryn said.

“Yes you must, and that is one of the reasons I love you,” Lillian admitted.

She cupped his face in her hands then softly kissed him on the lips.

Pulling on the cloak, she said,

“Goodnight, my love.”

Then she raised the hood over her hair and slipped out the window into the night.

Zephryn watched her until she disappeared into the shadows. He crawled into bed, feeling the sweet warmth she had left behind, and stared up at the moon until a cool night breeze soothed him to sleep.

Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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