Dragon Fire: Episode 86

The sun’s rays poured through the open window, resting on the face of the sleeping king. The warmth slowly roused Alidus from his deep slumber, and he raised his head, shielding his eyes from the light.

“For three days and three nights you have slept, sire, but on the morning of the fourth day when the sunlight broke through the clouds, I knew you would rally.”

Alidus struggled to see who was speaking.

“Who is there?” he asked.

A figure stepped into the light then moved close to the bed.

“Degan,” Alidus greeted.

There was peace in his eyes as a soft light shone forth from Degan’s face, a light Alidus had never seen before.

“Are you well?” Alidus asked.

“I am more than well, sire,” Degan said. “I am free. When Zulagareth died, I felt his power leave me. No longer am I an outcast followed by the dead.”

“Wonderful news. What will you do now?” Alidus asked.

“My father worked the land, so I thought I might take up the plow. It will be most rewarding to work with living things,” Degan laughed.

Alidus felt something bump against the bed, but before he could react, Degan reached down and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Olon has not left your side since you fell unconscious,” Degan explained.

Alidus peered over the edge of the bed and saw Olon raise his long black snout and look up at him.

“What about Atol and Idrian?” Alidus asked.

“Idrian is on the roof where she awaits news of your health,” Atol said, climbing in through the window, “and I am here.”

For a moment, Alidus looked far away then closed his eyes.

“The dragons are gone,” he said. “I can no longer feel them.”

“Soon after you fell, they flew away, returning to their home. The ruby dragon, though he bears the wounds of battle, will heal in time. The pearl kept close by his side in their flight,” Degan explained.

“Already the carpenters and stone workers bid to build a statue in honor of the two great dragons that bravely fought to save the people,” Aric said as he entered the chamber.

“I am pleased to see that all is well,” Alidus smiled. “But where are Razham and Brius?”

“Razham had to return home, and Brius chose to follow his old friend.”

Aric’s countenance grew sad.

“This displeases you?” Alidus asked.

“Before they left, Razham buried a dear friend of mine.”

“I am sorry for your loss,” consoled Alidus.

Aric shook off his grief then said,

“Enough. Now that you are awake, there is much to do. The king’s army must be rebuilt and properly trained. The city needs repair, and an ambassador from the faraway land of Kallimandil has arrived. He requests an audience with you.”

“Indeed. There is much to be done. I will speak with the ambassador at once. Thank you, Aric,” Alidus said.

When Aric bowed and turned to leave, Alidus said,

“Aric?”

“Yes, my liege?”

“To begin, remember that you are a prince. Do not call me liege. And secondly, you have skills as well as my trust. Begin rebuilding the king’s army as you choose.”

Aric nodded and left.

“So now what for you?” Alidus asked Atol.

“I must be going as well, sire. Idrian is nearing her birthing cycle, and I know she would like to be home when she gives birth.”

Alidus was surprised.

“There are others of her kind? I did not know this.”

“No, sire,” Atol said. “I believe she was born pregnant and will not stop growing until she reaches her birthing cycle.”

“When she does give birth, you must send word. I would like to see them.”

“I will, sire,” Atol smiled. “Olon, it is time.”

Olon came out from under the bed and followed Atol out the window to where Idrian waited. Alidus rose from the bed and watched as they climbed upon her back and Idrian lifted into the clouds.

* * *

In the days that followed, Alidus, King of Ethion, repaired the castle, while Prince Aric rebuilt the army. Under their watch, the kingdom flourished and the royal coronation was the grandest anyone had ever attended.

The dragons were never seen again, but it is said that should the king ever need them, they will return.

One wintry day, as Brother Egil stoked the morning fire in the great room, one of the other monks Brother Bavan stepped in.

“Good morning,” Brother Egil greeted.

“Good morning. A representative of Ethion is here. King Alidus wishes to speak with you,” Brother Bavan announced.

“Thank you. I will leave at once,” Brother Egil said.

Brother Bavan nodded and hurried away.

* * *

At the castle, Brother Egil was led to the bedchambers where King Alidus, now dressed in royal robes, sat by the fire. The king rose and walked over to the old monk, extending his hand.

Brother Egil took his hand and asked,

“Why have you summoned me, my liege?”

“After all this time, the title still sounds strange to my ears,” Alidus confessed.

“I am afraid it is part of being king,” the monk laughed.

King Alidus sat back and looked deeply into Brother Egil’s eyes. After a moment, he said,

“I want to hear about my father.”

“The king?” the monk asked.

“No,” Alidus answered. “My true father.”

Published in: on June 18, 2017 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 85

As the flames of the black dragon flowed over Alidus, enclosing him in their blaze, the ice breather, her pearly white skin glistening in the sunlight, shot up into the clouds while the fire breather, the ruby dragon, rose on his hind legs and lunged at the black dragon, tearing its skin with his great claws. Twisting to face his foe, the black dragon fought back, imbedding its teeth into the flesh of the red dragon.

Summoning all his strength, Alidus shot twin columns of fire at the black dragon just as the white dragon fell from the clouds. Driving her claws into the black dragon, she blasted him with a stream of ice before releasing him and returning to the sky.

Three steps and Alidus leapt into the air, landing on the head of the black dragon. He grabbed a horn then poured fire over the beast, but with a whip of its head, the dragon threw Alidus to the stone floor.

Rising to his feet, Alidus saw the black dragon bite into the red dragon’s neck drawing blood. As the creature screamed in pain, the black dragon dug in deeper. Quickly Alidus thrust out his arm and formed a whip of fire. Drawing back his arm, he lashed out and wrapped the whip around the black dragon’s neck. With all his strength, he pulled backward, trying to free the red dragon from the black dragon’s teeth. As he struggled to keep his footing, the white dragon again shot from the sky and landed on the black dragon’s back, driving her talons deep into its flesh.

As the three great beasts fought, Alidus pulled harder on the whip of fire.

 

*          *          *

 

In his haste to rally the soldiers and help the prince, Aric raced down the stairs and out into the courtyard. He soon saw that all the warriors had fled, fearful of the battle raging overhead.

When he rushed to the city gates, he saw that the guards there had also deserted, dropping their weapons as they retreated. Just as his hope was fading, Aric saw Degan and Atol coming over the hill.

As he ran the distance to them, he heard the sound of a galloping horse and turned to see his noble steed Colby.

“Degan, Atol,” he yelled as Colby drew near. “Prince Alidus needs our help!”

“Sadly, I can offer no help,” Degan sighed. “My power comes from Zulargareth. If I were to rise against him, the victory would be stillborn.”

“There must be something we can do,” Aric said, turning and looking up toward the battle.

Atol sensed Idrian’s emotions stir. He slowly turned and saw that she was intently watching the battle. Gently laying his hand on her side, he said,

“No, my valiant friend. This battle is beyond us. If we fight, we will not survive.”

Atol felt a rumble within her as she growled deeply in her throat. When she cast her eyes upon Atol, he held her gaze for a moment and knew what she would do.

“Very well. If this must be, we shall go together.”

Quickly he slipped on her back then helped Olon climb up behind him.

“Wait!” Aric called out.

But his word was lost in the wind as Idrian lifted into the air, her great wings pushing them onward to battle.

 

*          *          *

 

Alidus released the whip and held forth his hand as he looked deeply into the eyes of the black dragon.  A thin stream of fire shot from his hand and struck the black dragon’s face, forcing him to release the red dragon.

As the wounded ruby dragon fell to the earth, the black dragon clawed at his burning flesh, tossing the white dragon from his back. Alidus kept the stream of fire steady, his eyes fixed on his target. Suddenly Idrian broke through the smoke and pounced on the black dragon’s back. Digging her claws into his flesh, she wrapped her tail around the dragon’s tail and bit deeply into his neck.

When the dragon cried out in pain, Olon leapt from Idrain’s back and dove down the dragon’s throat. Idrian twisted and whipped her head around, tearing at the black dragon as he struggled to breath. Black smoke poured from his nostrils and engulfed Alidus.

“You cannot win this battle, boy,” Zulargareth said.

“I will fight to the death. I know you killed my father,” Alidus said.

“Not your true father,” Zulargareth said.

“And you murdered my mother,” Alidus added. “I will withdraw when you are dead.”

“I did not murder your mother, boy. You did,” Zulargareth corrected.

“Liar!” Alidus snapped.

“I speak the truth. The fire that rages within you killed her.”

At that, Alidus roared and exploded into glorious blue fire, the flames glowing brighter until they burned away the black smoke.

As the black dragon slowly dried to a burned husk, Idrian tore off the head and the remnants broke into a powder. Olon dropped onto a nearby section of scorched wood in what was left of the destroyed tower. Alidus, his strength spent, fell to the stone floor unconscious.

 

*          *          *

 

Razham carried the body of Lady Elisabeth to the top of a nearby hill. At the last, she had turned from evil, bravely fought her demons, and could now rest in eternity. He gently laid her body beneath a majestic tree, its great branches spreading out to shade her, and knelt down. Whispering a prayer, Gonorap watched as vines slowly grew over her, forming a thick emerald cocoon then turning a soft brown.

As he marveled, he saw a slight movement beneath the vines, something stirring as it worked its way out. A bright blue and yellow butterfly appeared, slowly fanning its wings before taking to the air. Fascinated, Gonorap cautiously moved up to the vines and reached out to touch them. Suddenly the vines broke apart and thousands of butterflies flew up, filling the air with their glory.

“Her soul is free now, and her body has been returned to the earth,” Razham said.

“There you are,” a voice called behind Razham.

Razham turned to see his old friends Brius and Olds riding up.

“Where is the boy?” Olds asked.

“Terrin,” Brius added.

“His name is Prince Alidus, and—,” Razham stopped when the clouds suddenly parted and the sun broke through.  “And it appears that he has saved us.”

“Well it would have been nice to know,” Olds complained, unaware of the battle now won. “We’ve been wandering the woods searching for him. We were almost set upon by bandits.”

“I am pleased to see that you are well, my friend,” Razham smiled.

“No thanks to you,” Olds protested.

“Stop your complaining, old man,” Brius teased. “We were protected by the most unusual of friends.”

From the back of the cart stepped out a cougar. She slowly approached Razham and sniffed him.

“I am a friend, great huntress,” Razham said.

His brow furrowed, Brius asked,

“It is time for you to return to your home?”

Razham watched as the cougar walked back to the cart then he looked up at his friend.

“Yes, it is time. I have used the last of my blessings and must reach home before my life fades and I return to the earth that bore me. Take care and tell Prince Alidus that Navhena watches over his land and brings it new life.”

“I will go with you, my friend,” Brius said. “We began this journey together and we will finish it together.”

“So I’m alone with the cougar?” Olds asked.

“Unless you wish to come with us,” Brius offered.

“No thank you,” Olds said, stroking his white hair. “I am far too young to lie down and die.”

Brius laughed and said, “Then take care, my friend.”

Published in: on May 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 82

“Do you dare to stand against me?” Alidus said, his voice booming.

Aric and the guards dropped to their knees, kneeling before Alidus.

Prince Alidus approached Aric and commanded,

“Take these men and follow me. I go to the tower to face Zephryses. This battle will not be an easy one. You must stay behind my sword.”

Aric stood and turned to the guards.

“Arise, men. Take up your arms and fight with the true king.”

Getting to their feet, the guards raised his swords and shouted.

Aric turned to Alidus and said,

“Lead on, my liege”

Alidus turned to face the tower and strode towards it.

Out of the thick clouds of smoke that billowed from the castle entrance came creatures wrapped in black sludge.

“Onward, men! Stand and fight!” Aric yelled as they moved forward.

“You shall not change my course,” Alidus said.

With a sweep of his hand, the creatures exploded in fire as Alidus drew closer. Raising his hand, he sent out a stream of fire that raced through the air consuming the smoke.

As Alidus neared the entrance, he heard a rumbling voice from the tower.

“Face me, child. I overcame death. I shall overcome you.”

With a heart of steel, Alidus valiantly marched into the tower.

“Stay back but not far,” Alidus ordered as he increased the heat, tearing away at the smoke.

Aric and the guards followed Alidus up the winding stone staircase to a landing where the smoke cleared.

There they came upon a frightened Nesmoru in a fighting stance.

“I cannot let you pass,” he insisted with shaking hands.

“As satisfying as it would be to end your life, I shall leave your fate to another,” Alidus said.

Stepping aside, he said,

“Uncle, greet your son.”

Aric stepped forward, his sword raised.

Nesmoru took a quick breath as he stared at Aric.

“I shall leave you two now,” Alidus said.

Turning back to the stairs, Alidus commanded,

“Guards, come with me.”

As the men followed him up the stairs, Nesmoru kept his eyes on Aric.

“You are mistaken. I have no offspring,” he said.

“Having a son was not your intent when you raped my mother and left her for dead!” Aric growled.

“I will need more detail. I have known many a wench,” Nesmoru replied.

“It happened during the war. You attacked her then tossed her aside like something without value. Had it not been for the monks of the monastery, she would have died,” Aric thundered.

Nesmoru paused, lifted his face to consider, and then said,

“Oh yes. I do remember her.”

He leaned forward a bit and sneered,

“She was in alliance with the siblings and wanted my help. I told her I would help but expected a favor in return.”

Aric tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword.

“I simply wanted a kind word spoken about how I had helped her, but before I could say anything, she had disrobed,” Nesmoru laughed. “I knew it would not take much to get her in that position again.”

Taking delight in Aric’s obvious anguish, he studied him for a moment.

“You are stronger than the others to hold back your blade. But no matter. There is no saving this world, my boy. The Master will soon overtake both you and the prince and claim his land. No one can defeat him. Should you actually succeed in striking me down, the Master will simply bring me back.”

Then extending the blade of his sword, Nesmoru lunged at Aric. Aric quickly spun out of the way and drove both his swords through Nesmoru’s back.

Pushing him to the edge of the landing, Aric lifted him and said,

“If so, then I shall simply kill you again.”

Pulling the blades free, Aric turned Nesmoru around to face him. His eyes widened in surprise, Nesmoru gasped for breath as blood poured from the wounds, soaking into his clothes.

“Goodbye, Father,” Aric said pushing Nesmoru over the wall.

As Nesmoru fell to the ground, Aric wiped the blood from his swords and sheathed them.

“I must hurry. Prince Alidus may need my help,” he thought.

 

*          *          *

 

When Alidus reached the top of the tower, he stopped when he saw the twisted decomposing form of what was once a man. Alidus knew that this decaying vessel held the spirit of the once High Priest Zephryses.

“Your new form seems to have failed you, Zephryses,” Alidus observed.

“Zephryses is no more. I am Zulagareth, and I would have your vessel if it were not for the power within you.”

“You are reprehensible to all that is pure and good,” Alidus spat.

“You would do well to conceal your arrogance, boy. Your power cannot stop me from killing you,” Zulagareth growled.

When the guards who had followed Alidus reached him, they poured into the room. Instantly, Alidus realized his mistake. Zulagareth opened his hands and smoke poured out, filling the room. All around him, Alidus could hear the men screaming.

“Surrender, boy. You cannot triumph over someone who has already defeated—”

Zulagareth was interrupted when Alidus suddenly burst into flames that shot out in every direction then exploded upwards through the roof.

Alidus looked down at the burned corpse of Zulagareth.

“Your power has little worth,” Alidus said.

“Up here, boy,” Zulagareth called.

Alidus looked up and saw a great cloud of black smoke swirling above him.

“In this form, you have no hope of destroying me,” Zulagareth boasted. “Perhaps you should have brought your friends.”

“I did,” Alidus returned.

At that moment, two majestic dragons swooped down from the clouds, landing on the castle keep.

“Clever,” Zulagareth said as the black cloud began to swirl. “I can do that as well.”

From inside the cloud, a dragon as black as the blackest night crawled forth and roared, sending out a stream of flame from its mouth that engulfed Alidus.

Published in: on February 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 79

“Please,” Aric pleaded with the captain, “let us sheathe our swords.”

“We are under orders from the king to arrest you for the murder of Prince Alidus,” the captain barked.

Just then the wind picked up as raindrops bounced off the iron blades of the swords, splashing onto the water-worn cobblestones. Aric knew well the fighting skill of these men. Alone, he had little hope of victory. Prince Alidus was now doubtless engaged in battle with the creature for he had not followed Aric up the shaft.

“Prince Alidus is alive, trapped just below our feet in the cave as he fights the creature beneath us. If you will but help me clear the shaft, you will see.”

“Enough!” the captain yelled as he swung his blade down toward Aric.

Aric blocked the strike and parried it out of the way. Gripping a sword in each hand, he told himself to keep moving. The guards must not overcome him. Quickly turning, Aric leapt up, landing on the fountain, then climbed to the top, a cowardly move that would give him only a few seconds. He hoped it would be enough time to search for a narrow passageway and force the guards to attack one at a time.

Aric sprang from the fountain’s spire and fled to the opposite end of the courtyard, hoping to draw the soldiers away from the fountain.

When the front guard swung out with his blade, Aric turned to ward off the blow, striking the soldier across the face. The guard stumbled backwards and fell into the advancing men, knocking them backwards.

Another guard rushed forward, striking down with his sword. Aric lowered his body, narrowly missing the blade, then whirled the soldier around and quickly raised his sword blade to the guard’s throat.

Instantly the other guards stopped their advance.

“I do not wish to harm any man, but I will in the name of the true king. There is a passage that runs under this city. The entrance is just beyond the fountain. This passage must be cleared so that Prince Alidus may rise and reclaim his throne,” Aric insisted.

The captain of the guard studied Aric for a moment as he considered. Then he gave the order.

“Two of you go and search for this passage. We shall soon see if he speaks a fool’s tale.”

Two guards broke away from the group and moved back towards the fountain.

“If nothing is there, you will release him and go willingly?” the captain asked.

“On my honor,” Aric answered.

* * *

As Alidus sent out a burst of fire, the monster Hannable retreated into the cavern.

“You must kill him, my son,” Genfyre announced.

“I cannot do this. He is a man and a father,” Alidus insisted.

“Long ago, he was. But now, he lies prisoner in his own body. Like me, he is tormented by mistakes of the past.”

When Alidus heard a low growl, he looked up to see the creature once again approaching the den entrance. But with another burst of fire, Alidus drove him back into the darkness of the deep cavern.

“He will not return soon,” Alidus said.

“Neither will he retreat,” Genfyre informed. “The animal never yields.”

“Is he not yielding now?” Alidus asked.

“No, my son. He will not stop charging until you are destroyed,” Genfyre said.

Alidus knew how to stop the creature, but Genfyre would not survive the burst of flames.

Sensing his apprehension, Genfyre said,

“I have lived a long life, my son. Committed many faults. Do not lay the burden of your soul as well on my shoulders. Like Hannable, I seek peace, and you have the power to give it.”

“But—,” Alidus began.

“There is no time. Your friend needs your help. If you do not act quickly, you will fail him as I have failed Hannable.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Alidus closed his eyes filling his mind with tranquility. He could sense the air around him begin to heat up.

“Tell Cerros,” Genfyre said, “that Hannable has finally found peace.”

As Alidus opened his eyes and burst into flames, he saw the creature running toward him at full speed. When he looked down at Genfyre one last time, the old man lifted his face and with a weak smile said,

“I shall tell your mother all about her son the hero.”

Alidus then turned his head away and closed his eyes.

* * *

When the guards reached the fountain, they abruptly stopped, peering into the water.

“Sir,” one called out.

“What is it?” the captain answered, keeping his eyes on Aric.

“The fountain, sir. The water is. . . ,” the guard trailed off.

“Is what?” the captain demanded.

“It is boiling, sir,” the guard said.

Annoyed, the captain turned away from Aric to face the fountain. Before he could take a step forward to see for himself, a tendril of black smoke-like energy struck him in the back, causing him to convulse for a moment. When he looked back at Aric, his eyes were lifeless and he sneered,

“That is of no matter. Kill him.”

The other guards hesitated, questioning what they had heard.

“Kill him!” the captain snapped. “At once!”

Amazed by the boiling water, one of the guards at the fountain said,

“Sir, the stones are beginning to crack, and they are as though on fire.”

“I do not care!” the devilish captain said. “I will kill him myself.”

As the captain stamped over to Aric, the fountain was suddenly engulfed in a column of flame that shot upwards above the castle walls.

Aric held up his hand to shield his eyes from the blinding light, but for a brief moment, he saw a man floating up inside the column of flame.

Through his fingers, Aric watched as the captain and guards turned to face the column of fire. He saw that the man floating in the flames was Prince Alidus.

Like a wisp of smoke, Alidus touched down lightly on the cobblestones. His eyes still burning embers, he commanded Aric to release the guard.

When Aric removed his blade and pushed the guard away, Alidus turned to the captain and guards.

“Drop your weapons,” he ordered.

The courtyard was filled with the ring of iron hitting stone as many of the guards obeyed.

“I will not ask again,” Alidus said to those who hesitated.

The rest of the guards dropped their swords, but the crazed captain held his and turned to face Alidus.

“I refuse to obey the orders from some hedge-born son of a devil,” he spat.

“You will,” Alidus returned.

Instantly, a column of fire exploded upwards from beneath the defiant captain, transforming him into a pile of ash.

Published in: on November 19, 2016 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 76

In Ethion’s great war room high atop the tallest of the castle towers, Nesmoru looked down at a large table upon which had been painted a map of the castle and its surrounding lands. Beside him stood his master Zulagareth, the body he controlled sick and withering as it deteriorated, tearing the flesh. Three of Ethion’s most powerful nobles stood on the other side of the table while one of the king’s advisors marked the map as news of battle changes came from the archers at each window.

“My kingdom was built to withstand the greatest of armies. Why does it struggle to defeat four people?” Nesmoru shouted in frustration.

“Sire, Ethion was built on the edge of a cliff and is accessible from only one side. It has withstood the mightiest of armies. Four men will never break through,” Lord Geleren assured him.

“Perhaps instead of fighting them, sire, we should open the gates and let them in. If the people see your army fail to stop these four men, perhaps they will lose faith in you. But if you open the gate and allow them to enter, when they attack, the people will see you as a gracious king who greeted his enemies with an open hand instead of a failed defense,” Lord Borodan proposed.

“You are suggesting we should let these men in and wait for them to kill the citizens before attacking for the sake of the king’s reputation?” returned Lord Geleren.

“Only a few. After the first of the attackers’ blows, Ethion’s soldiers will pour over them,” Lord Borodan explained.

“We must not make any hasty decisions until we have accurate information about the attackers. Perhaps we would be wise to send out a representative,” Lord Torth said.

“Will that work?” Nesmoru asked.

“If it pleases the king, we must attack at once, use the strength of our forces, and let the gods sort out the honorable from the unworthy,” Lord Geleren said.

“Have you forgotten that a monster fights alongside them? We cannot simply kill them. We should offer a pledge of peace then make their power our own,” Lord Borodan said.

“That monster is the very reason why we must attack with our full strength!” Lord Geleren said.

“And what if these are the people who took Prince Alidus?”  Lord Torth asked.

“Then we will negotiate for his return,” Lord Borodan said.

“I will not negotiate with these vile men. They must fall to the blade at once!”  Lord Geleren insisted.

“If they are the ones who took Prince Alidus then their siege upon our castle walls surely means the prince is dead,” Lord Torth reasoned.

“What if the prince is not dead but has aligned himself with these men?” Lord Borodan asked.

“Never,” Lord Torth insisted. “I remember Prince Alidus when he was a young boy. He would not do such a thing.”

After a long moment of silence, the three noblemen turned to Nesmoru and asked,

“Sire, what is your command?”

Nesmoru looked off in the distance as he considered.

“Perhaps if we send a representative to speak for us, the attack will cease and open the way for peace,” he said.

“This you shall not do!” Zulagareth commanded as he pushed aside Nesmoru.

“You will honor the king!” Lord Geleren roared, rushing toward Zulagareth.

Zulagareth held out his left hand toward the outraged nobleman. Suddenly thick black smoke poured from his hand, forming the shape of a spear. When Zulagareth lowered his hand, the spear flew through the air and pierced Lord Geleren, pinning him to the wall.

“”He is no longer your king! I am your king, your ruler, your god! You will hear me!” Zulagareth shouted as he pointed toward Nesmoru.

“Who are you?” Lord Borodan demanded.

“Who am I? I am the one who died and returned as death. I am life and death. Everything that lives and dies answers to me!”

“What do you say to this, Sire?” Lord Torth asked Nesmoru.

Again, Zulagareth held out his hand. Lord Torth began to seize as he rose into the air. Suddenly black barbs the size of daggers burst from his body.

“The king speaks at my command, and his words are those I give him!” Zulagareth roared.

In a stupor, Lord Borodan nodded weakly in response.

As Zulagareth withdrew his hand, Lord Torth fell to the floor, clutching his stomach in agony.

“What shall we do about Prince Alidus?” Lord Borodan asked.

When Zulagareth turned to face him, the noblemen recoiled in fear.

“The prince will die as he should have in the beginning.”

Zulagareth held out his hands and black smoke exploded into the room, filling every corner. Nesmoru dropped to the floor covering his ears as the room filled with the screams of Lord Borodan, the advisor, and the archers.

When the smoke cleared, Zulagareth stood triumphantly in the same spot. The flesh of every man in the room save Nesmoru had melted away, transforming them into skeletons. Taking up their weapons, they stood ready to command.

“Skeletons?” Nesmoru asked.

“Surprisingly difficult to destroy,” Zulagareth sneered.

Nesmoru watched in horror as the skeletal archers stood in position at each window looking out over the battle below. He groaned inwardly as he felt everything he wanted slipping away.

Zulagareth looked over the table and said,

“Zephryn’s son will return to reclaim his throne. Already he faces Hannable below the city streets.”

“Hannable?” Nesmoru asked.

“The man consumed by his monster,” Zulagareth said. “You will find that you need much help when your son comes to kill you.”

“My son?” Nesmoru asked in surprise.

“The unwanted child of a woman you raped years ago. He is in the courtyard even now fighting for his life. Soon he will come for you. He, like Prince Alidus, is as annoying as his father.”

Dragon Fire: Episode 75

Working from his boyhood memories, Aric slowly guided Alidus through the darkness of the tunnels and caves beneath the castle.

“How do you navigate with no light?” Alidus asked, keeping his hand on Aric’s shoulder.

“I have not thought of this place since my youth, but I remember the path. As a boy, I slipped inside the castle walls so often that I learned to move through the blackness. Not far from here is a gate and a shaft that leads up to a fountain in the center of the city,” Aric explained. “We must hurry before whatever cleaned these bones returns.”

“What creature has done this?” Alidus asked.

“In the days of my youth, I heard stories of a creature of fur with the head of a tiger and the arms of a man. I do not know if there is such a beast or if it is just a wild tale to frighten younglings. The elders also said that the burned priest dragged small children into these tunnels to their death,” Aric explained.

“The burned priest?” Alidus asked.

“Many years ago, a priest was burned alive for witchcraft, but after the fire consumed him, he returned to life. I now know that this story was about your father Zephryn. Some who heard the stories would bring no light when they entered these tunnels. They believed that the burned priest gave off his own light and that darkness was the only way to see him.”

As he followed Aric through the tunnels, Alidus hoped that one day he would hear the true story of his father instead of foolish legends.

“We are here,” Aric said.

When Alidus saw a small light up ahead, he removed his hand from Aric.

A few yards farther and they came upon an old gate made of bits of wood bound together with strips of cloth.

“We are almost free,” Aric said, lifting a small latch and opening the gate.

The light was coming from a low fire beside which sat an old man with a blanket of fur over his legs.

“Come and warm yourself by the fire,” he offered. “It is so rare that I enjoy the company of others. Most fall prey to the jaws of the animal.”

“You know of the creature down here?” Aric asked.

“He is not a creature, my son. He is an animal,” the old man corrected.

“How do you know this?” Aric inquired.

“I know this because he was once my friend,” the old man explained.

“What is your name, father?” Alidus asked.

“My name is Genfyre,” he answered.

Aric walked over to the shaft that lead up to the way out.

“I hear the beginnings of a storm. It may be that its wind and rain will cover our entry into the city,” Aric said.

“Why not come with us, sir?” Alidus offered. “There is no need for you to live down here alone in this damp, dark place.”

“I have not felt the sun on my face since the burned priest rose, but I am unable to leave here, my son,” Genfyre said, pulling the blanket free.

Alidus saw that the old man’s legs were gone below the knee.

“We can easily carry you, father,” Aric said. “We have the strength of youth.”

“Thank you, my son, but I must stay here for I live under a curse. I gave my word that I would free him from his torment,” Genfyre said.

“Who is it that you will free?” Alidus asked.

With blind, milky white eyes, Genfyre looked into the darkness from which Aric and Alidus had come and answered,

“Hannable.”

“Tell me of this Hannable,” Alidus said.

“Long ago, Hannable was a fierce warrior whose battle cry terrified even the bravest of soldiers, sending them fleeing in fear. People began to call him Hannable the animal, but he was no monster, just a man who loved his wife and unborn child, a daughter he never was able to see. When the burned priest rose, the high priest Zephryses placed a curse upon Hannable, turning him into a monster with the head of a tiger and limbs of a man. He was told that to be free of the curse, he must find the burned priest and bring him back to Zephryses.  But when Hannable caught the burned priest and saw that he was not evil, he released him and refused Zephryses’ demand. In a fit of rage, the high priest banished him to these caves and tunnels, and after years of living down here, the creature whose form he bore slowly overcame his heart and mind as well. Afraid he would one day leave this place and hurt his family, Hannable made me swear an oath on my life to stop him. But I failed and lost my legs in the struggle. Now my lot is to remain here to warn others until death claims me or Hannable finds the peaceful sleep of death he longs for. You m—”

A roar echoing in the distance stopped the old man.

“He is coming now. Time is short. Go, my son!” Genfyre warned.

“Hurry!” Aric said, urging the prince.

“We must not leave him here,” Alidus insisted.

“Hannable will not hurt me,” Genfyre said.

“We will come back for him,” Aric promised.

Aric reached into the shaft and began to ascend.

After a moment when Alidus still hesitated, Genfyre said,

“Go! Do what I was unable to do and save your friends.”

As the roaring grew louder, Alidus reluctantly moved toward the shaft.

Suddenly a large stone came hurtling toward him, blocking the shaft’s opening.

When Alidus turned, he saw the creature Hannable. As it hissed, its powerful jaws opened revealing flesh-slicing teeth. With the solid muscular arms and legs of a man, it stood almost eight feet tall covered in grey fur. The creature’s deep growl filled the tunnel, bouncing off the damp dark granite walls.

 

 

*          *          *

 

Thinking Alidus was behind him, Aric continued to climb up the shaft toward the opening by the fountain in the center of the city.

At the top of the shaft, Aric popped his head out and looked around. The way seemed clear, so pressing his hands on the courtyard stone, he pushed and lifted himself up and out.

Suddenly a deep voice behind Aric ordered,

“That is far enough.”

Slowly rising to his feet, Aric turned and saw that the courtyard was now filled with guards, some from his days of training.

“We are under orders to kill you, traitor!” the captain barked, his sword drawn.

As rain poured down on the soldiers and splashed against the cobblestoned courtyard, Aric watched as one by one the guards, many of whom he once called comrade, drew their weapons.

“Would that peace had stayed our swords,” Aric sighed, removing his blade from its sheath.

 

Dragon Fire: Episode 72

Lightning flashed between the heavy dark clouds, and thunder rumbled from a distant strike. As Alidus and Aric rode toward the walls of Ethion, a raw wind bent the field of dead grass in a bow to the rightful king.

“Entering the kingdom walls will not be difficult, but engaging the guards and Nesmoru’s men may put the people in peril,” Alidus pointed out. “We must protect their safety.”

“You know how we will get inside?” Aric asked in surprise.

“I know that no gate will stand in my way. And even if there were such a gate, my friends will easily drop us inside the castle wall,” Alidus said casting his eyes upward.

When Aric followed his gaze, he saw nothing but the angry sky.

“What is it that you seek, sire?”

“My friends,” Alidus said turning his face to Aric. “Dragons. Brother and sister.”

His eyes widened, Aric looked at Alidus and asked,

“You have friends who are dragons?”

Aric looked up at the sky again, imagining the great beasts breaking through the clouds, their powerful wings riding the wind.

“I thought dragons were just an old story of the elders.”

“No. They are quite real. Long ago, they withdrew from man to preserve their kind,” Alidus said.

Aric grew quiet for a moment then said, “Lígdraca. That is what she meant.”

“I do not understand,” Alidus responded.

“When I was a young boy growing up in the monastery, one of the older women warned me to stay out of the kingdom because of the Lígdraca, the fiery dragon that lived there. She forbade me entering the kingdom because the Lígdraca would devour me, as he did all naughty children. I thought it just a foolish tale, but I see now that she was warning me away from you.”

Alidus gave no response, and Aric wondered at his silence.

After a few moments, Aric said,

“I respect your gift, sire, but are there not other ways into the kingdom that will not harm the people?”

“I will hear any plan that will save lives, but I must take my kingdom,” Alidus said.

Aric returned to thoughts of his boyhood.

“Despite the old woman’s warning, I slipped outside the monastery so often than after a while, the monks vowed to reward any guard who caught me trying to enter the castle walls.”

As they grew near Ethion, Aric pointed to a section of the castle.

“In that part of the wall, a drainage pipe leads beneath the castle to a group of underground caves feeding into each other. The guards were not so diligent, and I easily slipped past them, entering the pipe and the tunnels. Had I courage enough, I could have stepped into the castle itself,” Aric boasted.

“These tunnels. They will take us past the guards into the castle?” Alidus asked.

“Yes, sire. Unless they have sealed them. It has been almost 15 years since I last tried,” Aric pointed out.

“When this battle is won, I shall have them sealed,” Alidus declared.

“These tunnels are home to many. Some are villainous citizens, criminals, but most are simple outcasts, the sick and the lame who have been shunned by the people.”

Alidus was troubled by this news but pushed it aside for a time as he thought of the battle ahead.

Increasing the horses’ speed, they hurried towards the tunnels. When they reached the drainage pipe, Aric climbed down from his horse.

Removing his leather pouch from the saddle, Aric said, “We must release the horses and let them return to their stable.”

Alidus slipped down and freed his horse then joined Aric as he peered into the pipe.

“I do not see how either of us will fit in there.”

“It will be tight, uncomfortable, but I believe we can get through,” Aric said then dropped down and slid into the pipe.

* * *

At the end of a long and laborious crawl through the pipe, they entered a wider tunnel and followed it through to where it opened into a large cave of absolute darkness and a foul odor that threatened to overwhelm them.

“What is that horrid smell?” Alidus asked.

When no answer came, Alidus called out,

“Aric?”

Silence.

Growing concerned for Aric, Alidus slowly closed his eyes and with one quick motion set a blaze, filling the cavern with light.

Suddenly Aric rushed to his side and warned,

“Quickly! Put out the fire!”

“Why?” Alidus asked.

“Look down,” Aric suggested.

When Alidus looked down, he saw that the floor was covered with bones, some strewn about, others piled in the corners. He gasped, filling his nostrils with the stench of rotting flesh.

“There is something you should know, something vile,” Aric said reaching down and picking up one of the bones. “Look at this.”

When Alidus drew nearer for a closer look, he saw that the bone was that of a human, and bite marks covered its surface.

“Teeth marks?” he asked.

Human teeth marks,” Aric said dropping the bone and wiping his hand across his shirt.

His eyes darting back and forth as he searched every corner, Aric said,

“We need not worry about outlaws and outcasts down here. We are quite alone except, that is, for whatever ate them.”

Published in: on April 16, 2016 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 70

Aric took a step back reeling as the news struck him.

“What did you say?” Alidus asked in surprise.

Brother Egil looked toward the monastery and cautioned,

“Please, my brothers. We must return to the safety of hallowed ground. I will explain all once we are safe within its walls. I have said too much here in the open air.”

When no one moved, Brother Egil pressed.

“Please, your majesty, you must trust me. We are in peril here.”

“Lead on, Brother Egil,” Alidus answered.

The old monk turned and headed back to the monastery with Alidus as the others followed close behind. Once through the gates, Brother Egil sat down by a large fountain to rest. Looking up at Aric, he began his story.

“Your mother came to us after the battle against the siblings. She was a handmaiden for one of the lords whose land neighbored Ethion. She told us she had been raped and left for dead.  When we asked who had done this, she would not answer nor would she accept our aid until we swore we would tell no one of her attack. She was overcome with fear. In our care, her broken body slowly healed and the child within her grew, but she lived a solitary life, always watchful. When the day of your birth arrived, Aric, she lived only long enough to hold you. Then she slipped away in peace. It was not until recently the gods gave me knowledge of who had attacked her. He was Nesmoru, the prince who became the false king. He is your father, Aric, and you are a prince second only to Alidus whose father was the high king.”

Brother Egil turned to Alidus and said, “He is your cousin, sire, and his soul bears stains like your own. But those stains will be cleansed when he avenges the death of his mother and sets right that which was made wrong.”

“Tell me about my father,” Alidus asked.

“It grows dark, sire, and there is no time to give you the full story. Perhaps if we survive the night. Until then, you must take comfort in this. Your father was an orphan adopted by the high priest Zephryses who took him into the temple and gave him the name Zephryn. He loved your mother very much but knew his station. He could only admire her from afar. The high priest, thirsty for power, was corrupted by it. He drank deeply from a demonic well, the source of the siblings’ power. And so he began to plot against the king. He vowed he would marry your mother and claim the throne. But your father Zephryn fought him, a battle that killed the high priest and robbed your father of his mortality,” Brother Egil explained.

“If the high priest died that day, what is the darkness that corrupts the land?” Cerros asked.

“His death marked the end of his mortal form, but his depraved soul lives on. The power that corrupted the high priest cursed Zephryn with immortality. This power cannot be used against itself. Only you, Alidus, can destroy him. You possess the same power, but it has been purified by the blood of your mother that flows within you,” Brother Egil answered.

“I will go with them,” Degan said.

“You cannot. Your power is but a splinter of the darkness. You were meant to be his vessel, his new mortal form. If you draw too closely, he will consume you and you will be lost forever. Once Alidus has slain him, you will be free, Degan.”

“If any part of the high priest Zephryses remains, will he not return?” Razham asked.

“He no longer bears that name for he has taken a new name. If Aric defeats him tonight, his soul will descent into the pit forever and the power he leaves behind will be washed clean of his influence,” Brother Egil explained.

“Then I will no longer call him the darkness. He is not an invincible foe, an evil that cannot be overcome. He is a man and can be defeated. What is this name?” Alidus asked.

“I dare not speak it. To do so is to summon him,” Brother Egil said.

“I do not fear him,” Cerros said, drawing his ax.

“Even a valiant warrior knows fear,” the old monk corrected.

“Say the name!” Alidus commanded, his rage heating the air around him.

The old monk shuddered, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes.

“Zulagareth,” he whispered.

Suddenly Degan bent over and grabbed his head in agony. After a moment, he straightened up. His eyes black as deep pools, he spoke in a rumbling, strange voice.

“You dare speak my name, old man. I will feast on your soul and pick my teeth clean with your bones before this day has ended.”

Alidus stepped forward but Brother Egil gently held out his hand to halt.

“Wait. This is not fully he who speaks, merely a portion. To act now would only harm Degan.”

Zulagareth laughed loudly and said,

“So the unwanted son has returned. Even your own father would not have you. Your mother took many lovers. She did not know from whose seed you sprang. The son of a harlot shall have no claim to the throne of Ethion.”

Unable to control his fury, Alidus burst into flames. Quickly, Brother Egil took water from the fountain and said,

“Be gone, demon! This is hallowed ground. You have no power here.”

As he spoke, he threw the water at Degan, and with a hiss, Zulagareth fled, leaving Degan to collapse.

Brother Egil bent down to Degan as Aric rushed to the side of his friend.

“He knows we are here, and he knows we are coming. Alidus, you and Aric must enter the castle and destroy the darkness and Nesmoru. Razham, you will go with Degan to find the hunter Vanamir. He has returned and lives by the power of the darkness. You must destroy him. Degan cannot defeat Vanamir as they share the same power. Cerros, you and Atol must do battle with the summoner and her brother. Even now they approach the kingdom from the north.”

Brother Egil lowered his head, said a silent prayer, then looked at each man with tenderness.

“Go now. There is no more time.”

Published in: on February 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 69

Like a mother fleeing with her children, a light breeze hurried the swirling leaves down the road as the sky over Ethion grew dark. Aric and Degan gently rocked side to side in the saddle, their horses slowly walking down the road toward Willowthorne Monastery. The air was eerily silent. No sounds of life, not even a bird’s call.

As they passed the castle of Ethion, its stones broken, Degan whispered, “A dark familiar energy is in this place. Something draws me toward the castle.”

Aric’s eyes searched the castle grounds then the surrounding fields.

“Not since my youth have I seen the land so empty and the skies so black.”

“Something evil has returned, my friend. It lingers over the land like a poisonous vapor,” Degan warned.

The castle behind them, they continued across the rolling hills until they reached the field of Willowthorne. When they noticed that several men had gathered in the long grass, Degan slowed his horse to a stop and suggested,

“I should stay behind. It is not safe for me among civilized men.”

“This is a safe place,” Aric reassured him.

“Not for me, my friend,” Degan insisted. “Word has spread of what I am, what I can do. Warriors hunt and kill necromancers. I have suffered attacks simply because papers bearing my likeness have been posted in Ethion and the neighboring kingdoms.”

When Aric looked across the field and saw the wind whipping the old monk’s robe, he said,

“But you will like Brother Egil. He is not a warrior. He will provide you shelter, protection. When my mother died, he took me in and raised me.”

Aric’s words gave Degan a measure of peace, so he encouraged his horse to move on.

“I will take you at your word, my friend,” he said. “If I may ask, what happened to your mother?”

“I was never told. I heard rumors that she was attacked and raped by bandits. They said she escaped to Willowthorne and died there giving birth to me,” Aric replied.

“I am sorry for your loss,” Degan replied.

His eyes straight ahead, Aric answered,

“One cannot miss what one never had.”

As they drew closer, Aric saw that around Brother Egil stood a creature in black, a barbarian, and Prince Alidus.

“My liege!” Aric shouted, pushing his mount into a gallop.

When Aric first heard that the prince had been kidnapped, he vowed to find him but was driven off course. Now he flew across the field, his heart pounding.

Whirling at the sound of rapidly approaching hoofbeats, the barbarian looked past Aric and saw Degan following.

Drawing his weapons, he growled,

“Foul demon! Death dealer! You will come no farther.”

Raising his weapons, the barbarian raced towards them with a battle cry.

Aric at once slowed and dismounted, drawing his swords.

Tossing one sword into the air, he threw the second at the barbarian’s feet. The weapon stuck deep into the soil, forcing the barbarian to stop. Aric quickly moved in close between the arms of the barbarian. Grabbing his left arm, he twisted his body and flipped the barbarian over his head, sending him to the ground. Then twisting his left hand, he pinned the right to the ground with his foot just as the airborne sword came down, piercing the ground at the barbarian’s side.

“You will not harm him,” Aric insisted.

“Enough!” Prince Alidus commanded.

“But, sire, my friend is innocent,” Aric explained.

“I said enough!” Alidus shouted, slamming his foot to the ground. Suddenly all around him, the grass burst into flame then curled into blackened ash as the fire died.

“Please,” Brother Egil pleaded. “We must not fight here. The enemy has cast his power over this area. You must not let his malice turn you.”

“Release him!” Alidus demanded.

Aric retrieved his swords then stepped back as the barbarian rose to his feet.

“Forgive me, sire,” Aric requested.

“We have much to discuss and very little time. Already the enemy calls his generals,” Brother Egil warned. “He gathers the siblings Edron and Nyraid and the ranger Vanamir.”

“Vanamir is dead,” Aric and Alidus said in unison.

“Both times, the enemy has brought him back to life. The only way to destroy him is to destroy the power that now grows in your absence,” the old monk said, turning to Alidus.

As he approached the barbarian, Degan said,

“I may have been born of the evil that now spreads over this land, but I do not answer to it.”

Eyeing him suspiciously, the barbarian only said, “We shall see.”

“He speaks the truth,” a voice said from within Degan’s leather pouch. “Too dangerous here. Must leave at once.”

“What is that voice?” the barbarian asked.

“My keeper,” Degan explained as a small toadlike creature with gray leathery skin peeked out of the pouch, its pale red eyes blinking in the light.

“This is Gonorap and I am Degan.”

“Cerros,” the barbarian said, with a slight bow of his head.

“My brothers, we must hurry if we are to stop this evil,” the old monk cautioned as he approached.

“Already the darkness draws in his army to defeat us. His generals are feared by all who stand in his way. If no one dares to oppose him, he will tear down the false king and place himself on the throne.”

“The false king. You mean Nesmoru?” Alidus asked.

“Yes, Nesmoru. Your uncle,” Brother Egil said then looking at Aric, he added,

“And your father.”

Dragon Fire: Episode 66

Turning back to the army of cultists, Aric strode into the fight, swords drawn. From the funeral pyre bathed in flames, one of the cultists leapt out at Aric. With a swing of the blade, Aric opened the cultist’s chest, sending him to the ground. But after a moment, the man stood up, now one of the dead, and charged after those who had been his comrades.

With half of his face burned to a dark brown, leathery flesh, one of the cult priests came up next to the large fire and began speaking in a tongue unfamiliar to Aric.

“What is he doing?” Aric yelled to Degan above the noise.

“He calls his god for help,” Degan answered.

At once Aric rushed toward the priest.

Pushing the cultists and the dead out of his way, he cleared a path to the pyre.

As he drew nearer the priest, one of the cultists ran screaming from the crowd and seized Aric around the neck, pulling him down.

During his struggle to free the cultist’s grip, Aric dropped his weapons. As he fought to regain his swords, he felt himself begin to lose consciousness. Gathering his strength, he raised his leg, slipped a dagger out of his boot, and drove its blade into the cultist’s flesh. Immediately the hand around Aric’s throat fell away and Aric twisted free. Taking up his swords, he slashed the cultist’s throat, cutting off his head. Then stepping away from the body, he turned back toward the priest.

With his arms outstretched, the priest continued to chant louder and louder, moaning in an unnatural voice. Aric reached down to the dead cultist, worked the dagger free, then threw it at the priest.

The dagger flipped through the air entering the priest’s lower back. At once the chanting stopped and he stumbled forward into the fire.

Aric made his way over to the fire pit and stepped up on its edge.

When he began to shout out over the crowd, Degan commanded the dead army to stop their attack.

“I have killed your master. Your god has abandoned you.”

At that, the cultists ceased fighting.

“Lay down your arms and you will be spared. You have lost this battle. As each of your men dies, the army of the dead grows. I cannot grant you mercy from the king for your crimes, but I can promise you that imprisonment as a man is far better than life as a mindless slave. You must choose which path you will take. What is your answer?”

The cultists looked at each other in uncertainty. Suddenly one of them raised his sword in defiance, but before he could strike, a dead soldier lashed out, slicing through the man’s neck, separating his head from its body. The cultist fell to the ground dead but a moment later, his headless body rose and stood awaiting a command.

When the rest of the cultists saw that fighting was futile, they dropped their weapons.

“A wise decision,” Aric said.

While he spoke, Aric saw the crowd part as a young man, a look of horror on his face, slowly made his way toward Aric.

“Forgive me but I bring a message for Aric and the necromancer Degan,” he said.

“I am Aric, and Degan is here as well,” Aric said.

When the young man held out the note, Aric took it from his hand.

After a moment Degan asked,

“What is this note?”

Aric looked up at Degan, his brow furrowed, and said,

“It seems we are needed. The world may be ending soon.”

* * *

One of the youngest of the cultist brethren had run in the midst of the battle to the courtyard where he last saw his master Vanamir.

“Master,” he cried out, “we are dying. These monsters and blasphemers are gaining the victory. We need your help.”

The ground where Vanamir died slowly began to rise as black bile seeped out from the cracks in the stones. Startled, the cultist began to back away until a withered hand reached out from the soil and grabbed his leg.

Black lines ran up the cultist’s body and he screamed as he quickly aged, withered, then fell to the stones in a pile of dust.

The hand from the soil stretched out its fingers, popping the knuckles, then formed them into a fist.

Published in: on October 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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