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 83

As Cerros struggled to rise, the stone at his neck glowing with a blue radiance, he knew that because of his injuries and loss of weapons, he would likely be unable to help the young prince. Though Cerros drew comfort as he thought about joining Erlin and Cadrus, the wife and child he had lost in death so long ago, he grieved knowing that Atol would die protecting the castle, as would Idrian and Olon. Now only a few feet away, Edron roared and slammed his hammer to the earth with enough force to shatter stone.

The ground split beneath the blow and dust filled the air.

From across the battlefield, Atol’s heart broke as he saw the hammer strike and knew that Cerros was dead though he had fought valiantly. Soon his own fate would be the same. He courageously turned to meet the advancing foe. As Edron walked, the dust behind him began slowly to settle. Suddenly, Atol gasped when he saw Cerros rise from the earth.

At Atol’s look of surprise, Edron turned to see Cerros standing tall, surrounded by a clear ball of white energy. Though his battle armor was torn and he wielded no weapons, Cerros marched toward Edron with purpose.

“What magic is this?” Edron wondered.

He raised the hammer and brought it down again, striking the ground as a thunderclap split the air and the earth shook and tore. Like waves breaking upon the rocks, the force splintered against the glowing shield that surrounded Cerros.

“What are you?” Edron demanded.

As Cerros moved steadily towards Edron, Atol rejoiced until he saw the glowing stone around the neck of the great warrior.

“Olaskalam,” Atol whispered.

Olaskalam, the light stone, was an object of great power no one had seen in a generation. A stone of greatest purity, it drew upon the very life of the one who wore it, making him supremely powerful just moments before it killed him. Atol was disheartened. He knew that although Cerros would have the power to save his comrades, he would lose his life in the bargain.

“I will not be defeated by an inferior warrior,” Edron told Cerros.

Once again Edron raised his hammer, but before he could bring it down, Cerros reached up seizing his wrists.

Edron cried out in pain as the skin beneath Cerros’ grasp began to sizzle.

His eyes glowing white, Cerros said,

“If I must drag you to death myself—”

Cerros stopped when Edron’s screams grew louder and his skin began to crack as white energy burst forth.

“This day will be your end!” Cerros thundered.

Just as Atol closed his eyes, Cerros and Edron exploded in a burst of white light. Then the light died away, leaving behind only scorched earth.

Nyriad screeched,

“Brother!”

“He is gone,” Atol said as Idrian rose to her feet.

“No! He is not dead!” Nyriad shouted in rage. “But you soon will be.”

“The fight is over. You are defeated,” Atol said.

All around her, the ground began to swell.

“I will feed on your bones before this day is over!” Nyriad spat.

Atol felt the earth begin to shake and watched as it split from the tree line of the field to the castle wall.  Whatever Nyriad was calling to her was an army.

When the first section of earth broke loose, a small brown leathery hand reached out and pulled itself free. The creature was small but its numbers would be great.

“Goblins,” Atol said looking around.

“Yes!” Nyriad spat. “Release me and perhaps they will not feast on your dead body.”

Atol ran for Idrian. Taking flight was his only escape.

“No!” Nyriad yelled.

Roots from her armor lashed out and wrapped themselves around Idrian.

Idrian roared as she struggled to free herself.

“Goblins cannot be trusted,” Atol warned. “They will betray you.”

“So be it,” Nyriad growled.

As Atol fought to free Idrian, he looked at Olon and shouted,

“Dive deep. Run and warn the others.”

When Olon refused to leave his comrade, Atol ordered,

“Go now!”

When the last goblin crawled out from the ground, it began to chitter along with the others and the earth grew very still. Then suddenly the ground began to rumble.

Atol looked around to find the cause. When he saw the trees give way to an army of the dead, pouring from the tree line, he lost all hope of escape. Row upon row they came.

“What have you done?” Atol asked Nyriad.

Nyriad’s smile faded as a man, a man she knew, a man who was supposed to be imprisoned, broke through the ranks of the dead and stood before them.

Atol watched in amazement as Degan, cloaked in black energy, stepped forward and commanded,

“Slay the goblins!”

A skeleton to his left, clothed in shards of a soldier’s armor, raised his sword and let out a battle cry. The army of the dead took up the cry and it filled the air as they poured out from the trees in an unending wave. They washed over the goblins without mercy, killing them one by one as Degan strode through the chaos to Atol and Nyriad.

Degan’s eyes pierced Nyriad as he ordered,

“Release her!”

Terrified, Nyriad quickly pulled back the roots, freeing Idrian. The great beast stood and looked out over the army that covered the field.

“Do not fear,” Atol calmed Idrian.

Looking at Atol, Degan asked,

“Where is Cerros?”

Atol hung his head in grief. Before he could speak, Nyriad screamed,

“My brother is dead, and my master will see you skinned alive for your betrayal!”

Degan looked at Nyriad, his eyes like burning coals, and after a moment said,

“Take her. She is yours.”

Atol would not look as the dead dragged Nyriad away. As she disappeared into the massive army, her screams faded and all was still.

Dragon Fire: Episode 80

Each step took Kimli the troll closer to his destination and farther away from the battle that raged in Ethion, the city of his master’s death and rebirth. Each step drew him closer to the place where his brother had died at the hands of the fire breather.

Kimli and his brother Undall had failed to keep the fire breather imprisoned until the master could take possession of his new form, the man that Kimli now carried over his shoulder. Perhaps when he discovered that Kimli had taken the body to Copperhead Camp for safekeeping, the master would show mercy to Kimli.

As the troll plodded down the road, the man began to stir.

“We almost there,” Kimli assured him.

At the top of the next hill, Kimli stopped and looked out over what was once Copperhead Camp. Now its stone walls lay in great crumbling piles, like a forgotten vestige.

“Soon you be safe. Master forgive Kimli that fire breather get away.”

He missed his brother Undall. They were the last of the trolls. With a deep sigh, Kimli said,

“Master bring back brother.”

He shifted the man’s weight and started down the hill to the river that ran past Copperhead Camp, separating it from the rest of the world.

Just before he stepped into the current, Kimli took the man in his hands, lifting him into the air.

“Must keep Master’s new body safe,” he said as the water rose to his waist.

When he reached the opposite bank, he shook off the water and reminded himself of his hope.

“Must please Master. Master forgive. Bring back brother.”

* * *

Degan moaned and reached up to touch his aching jaw. The last thing he remembered was a great troll striking him, knocking him to the ground. He lifted his head and saw that he was being carried by the troll toward what looked like the remains of a castle.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“Safe place,” the troll answered.

When Degan struggled to get free, the troll only tightened his grip.

“No!” Kimli snapped. “Kimli keep you safe!”

“Release me at once!” Degan demanded.

“Must keep you safe. You hide here till Master come,” Kimli explained.

Degan fought against the strength of the troll but to no avail.

Kimli walked over to the opening where the fire breather had escaped.

“You hide here. Master come for you,” he repeated.

“Please, no!” Degan pleaded.

Kimli turned his hand over and released Degan, dropping him into the deep hole. As he plummeted to the bottom, Degan frantically reached out, trying to grasp something and stop his fall. His body flipped over and over until he finally landed, crashing into a pile of bones and charred bodies.

“Stay there till Master come for you,” Kimli ordered.

Certain the master would be pleased, Kimli turned and walked away. Just as he reached the bank of the river, the ground began to quake.

Frightened and confused, Kimli whirled around and ran back to Copperhead Camp.

* * *

Atol watched with wonder as roots wrapped like armor around the summoner Nyriad, lifting her from the ground, then he readied himself for the battle.

He waited to call down Idrian, fearful he would call her too soon. He knew she was courageous, ready to fight, but he wished to force the summoner to show all her powers. He would fight against them then call in Idrian to prevail.

Atol felt Olon press against his leg. He saw that his little friend was frightened but would not leave his side.

“If you must flee for your life, do it now,” Atol said. “I will guard your escape.”

When he saw that Olon remained, he steeled himself, took a deep breath and began running full speed towards Nyriad.

Stretching his legs out to full length, he saw that Olon was right behind him, keeping pace. When he was within range, Atol leapt at Nyriad aiming for her throat. But before he could reach her, a large branch hurled him aside, knocking him to the ground.

As he struggled to rise, he saw Idrian spiral down and land, shaking the ground beneath her. Turning toward Nyriad, she sent out a great roar.

Nyriad stumbled backwards at the force but quickly recovered and swung out at Idrian.

Idrian moved out of the way then lashed out with her powerful tail, striking Nyriad’s armor and knocking her backward. As Nyriad struggled to pull herself up, Olon leapt from the ground, seized one of the vines of Nyriad’s armor then burrowed deep beneath the ground, pinning Nyriad’s arm. With her enormous claws, Idrian slashed at the roots encircling Nyriad.

As Idrian tore away the armor, Nyriad cried out for help.

* * *

Across the field, Cerros fought Edron hand-to-hand, staying close to keep Edron from striking the ground with his hammer and sending out another shock wave.

When Edron heard his sister’s cry, he pushed Cerros back then turning to face Idrian, he raised his hammer overhead and slammed it down to the earth. The force of the blow tore through the ground and knocked Idrian onto her side.

Raising his hammer again, he raced toward Idrian to strike her. Cerros roared and chased after him, knocking him to the ground. As the two men fought, Idrian tried to recover and rise again.

“If I must drag you to death myself, this day will be your end!” Cerros shouted to Edron.

Edron dropped his hammer, and clapped his hands on either side of Cerros’ head, stunning him just long enough to pull a knife from Cerros’ belt and plunge it into his leg. Removing his hand from the handle of the knife, Edron pushed Cerros away then took up his hammer.

Cerros quickly regained his footing and ignoring the pain in his leg began to whirl his chain overhead. Lashing out, he wrapped it around Edron’s hammer.

Edron struggled to pull it free as Cerros pulled back. Driven by his sister’s cries for help, Edron used all his strength, pulled back on the hammer and slammed it into the ground.

The blast of the force threw Cerros back causing him to lose the chain and his sword.

Then Edron turned toward Idrian and slammed the hammer, knocking her down once again.

Turning to face Cerros, he growled, “I am done with you.”

Struggling to get to his feet, Cerros knew he could not reach his sword or chain in time, and his damaged ax was of little use. As Edron raised the hammer yet again, Cerros thought of his wife and child who had gone before him.

As he closed his eyes and prepared to die, the stone around his neck began to hum.

Published in: on December 18, 2016 at 6:53 am  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 77

His hammer raised, Edron roared a battle cry and charged the field, the minotaurs close behind.

As Cerros stepped forward to meet his foe, he stopped and for a moment watched the minotaurs. Turning back to Atol, he said,

“The man will soon fall under my blade. Idrian will protect you from these monstrous creatures?”

“I must save her strength for the next strike of the summoner,” Atol explained as he motioned for Idrian to take flight.

“Then I shall stay and fight the minotaurs alongside you,” Cerros said turning back.

“No, my friend. You must defeat the man. Leave these creatures to me,” Atol said.

“I do not question your valor, but they are as giants,” Cerros pointed out.

“One does not need greater might to win a battle. Even the smallest stream will wear down a mountain with time,” Atol said.

Turning his face toward the battle, Atol began running at the minotaurs, stretching out his legs to full length, quickly gaining a blinding speed.

Cerros watched with wonder as in a flash, Atol covered the distance and leapt at the last moment between the creatures. Lashing out his tail, he wrapped it around the neck of one minotaur, pulled it to the ground, then whipped it around and tossed it to the edge of the field. The creature landed on a group of sharp rocks, tearing its flesh.

Quickly turning, Atol felt his feet slip across the wet grass as the other minotaur roared and raised its weapon, bellowing a battle cry. Atol saw that the wounded minotaur had risen, collected its weapon, and was charging toward him. He waited until just before the charging minotaur struck then leapt out of the way to safety.

The two creatures collided, the horns of one goring the other. One of the axes flew through the air and Atol, reaching up to grab it, hurled it at the closest minotaur. As the ax blade drove itself into the creature’s back, Atol ran toward it and climbed up. Grabbing the ax handle with both hands, he pulled it free and jumped up and over Olon as he shot out of the ground.

With force and ease, Olon punched through the minotaur, leaving a two-foot hole in its torso. Both minotaurs fell to the ground and instantly dissolved into powder. Atol stood, turned to face the summoner, and dropped the ax.

Nyriad shrieked as she watched the black creature destroy her pets.

“You monster!” she howled.

A twirl of energy ran up her spine through her arms and traveled from her fingers into the ground.

All around her pockets of earth began to swell and writhe.

* * *

In the wake of Atol’s success, Cerros turned his attention to Edron. Shouting his battle cry, he took to the field. When he had covered half the distance, Cerros threw one of his swords. Spinning through the air, the blade came to rest in Edron’s leg, cutting a deep gash. Cerros did not wish the kill to be so easy. Victory was always work fighting for. It must carry a great cost for a warrior. As Edron fell to his knees, Cerros drew closer.

“I was hoping for more,” he yelled.

As soon as the words passed his lips, he knew he had erred. Pride can lead a warrior to defeat, for a battle may turn. True that taunting the enemy in battle may anger him, force him to make rash moves, but victory must never be celebrated before the battle is won. Better to fight bravely, honorably, and if need be to die well.

Edron pulled the blade from his leg and threw it at Cerros. As its blade sliced through the air, Edron stood, raising his hammer above his head and slamming it to the ground. The earth shook as a wave of force ripped up the ground and slammed into Cerros like a great falling oak. Cerros flew backwards and hit the ground, sliding over the rocks and grass. Stunned from the blast, his head ached as the cold rain washed the mud from his face.

Rising to his feet, Cerros retrieved his sword from the ground then slipped it into its sheath. With a light in his eyes, he said,

“I shall enjoy this.”

Drawing a chain from his side, he whipped it over his head then struck the ground as he shouted,

“Come to me and we will fight till the devils drag us to the underworld.”

* * *

As Nyriad filled with wrath, wave after wave of energy poured from her fingertips into the earth. The pockets rose higher until they finally broke open and spiders, each the size of a wolf, began to burst forth, crawling over each other as they covered the ground.

Giggling with delight, Nyriad shrilled a chant as she raised her arms to the clouds.

“Wrap, entrap. Bite and fright. Bind his bones until he moans. Tear his flesh. Make him thresh. Take a feed and watch the bleed.”

As she lowered her arms, she said,

“Now go, my children. Attack!”

From all around her, the great spiders swarmed out onto the field as she held out her arms. The creatures moved under her power and the trees and grass in their path withered and died.

Nyriad looked up to the sky and watched the circling Idrian.

“You, creature, killed my precious Kodaz. I will tear your head from your wretched body while your master watches. Then I will call you back from the underworld and command you to kill his friends.”

Suddenly she began laughing at the thought of the delicious screams that would soon fill her ears as her enemies perished at her hands. The screams that would wash over her with such great peace and take her into a slumber for days to come.

Energy poured out of her fingertips, striking the ground before her. The earth rumbled and roots broke through the soil, carrying with them rocks and dirt. Slowly surrounding Nyriad, they wrapped their branches around her arms and legs as they lifted her.

Dragon Fire: Episode 73

While Cerros rode on horseback, Atol easily kept up on foot, stretching out his legs to their full length.

After a few miles of silence between them, Cerros looked over at Atol and asked,

“I mean no offense, but what type of creature are you? I have not seen others of your kind.”

“I do hope that one day the gods will bless me with that answer,” Atol sighed.

“You do not know?” Cerros asked surprised.

“I do not,” Atol replied. “One morning I awoke in a deep jungle with no memory of who I was or where I had come from. I was very young, just a boy, but I looked much as I do today.”

“What of—” Cerros abruptly stopped when he saw a black fishlike beast standing in the road up ahead.

“Olon,” Atol reminded him.

After a moment, Cerros nodded, “Yes. Now I remember.”

“An outcast child,” Atol continued, “I was forced to take care of myself, but when I found Idrian and Olon, I befriended them and raised them as my family.”

“You must have known something of humans for you speak more clearly than most men,” Cerros suggested.

“After I grew tired of watching man from the shadow of the trees, I fashioned a long cloak from animal pelts and taught myself to walk on my knees. I reasoned that my great height would make men uneasy. By wrapping myself in the cloak and keeping a safe distance, I was able to move freely among humans as I learned their language. The day came when I could mimic your language enough to speak. I wore gloves and a mask explaining that a brutal fire had distorted my face and hands,” Atol explained.

Cerros felt outrage at man’s cruelty but quickly reminded himself that in his youth he too had mocked those who were different. He was no better.

Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Cerros looked up at the angry sky, its black clouds churning.

“The rain comes soon.”

“Some would say the sky is a sign of ill fortune,” Atol suggested.

“I am a warrior. I have no need of foolish signs,” Cerros said.

“Perhaps not. Nevertheless, they are all around us,” Atol said. “This evil will not go peacefully, and one of us may fall before the sun goes down. Will you swear an oath?”

“What oath would you have me swear?” Cerros asked.

Atol looked up and for a moment watched Idrian lazily circling in the sky.

“If something should happen to me, swear that you will keep her safe.”

“You trust me with her?” Cerros asked.

“You are a noble warrior, Cerros. A man of honor,” Atol asserted.

Cerros felt the stone pulsating around his neck.

“You will outlive us; I am certain of that. But should the gods turn against us, I will guard her with my life,” Cerros promised.

“Thank you, my friend,” Atol said.

 

 

*          *          *

As they approached the front gates of the castle, the double guards stiffened and stood alert.

“Halt! You may not pass,” one guard barked.

“We are forbidden to enter?” Cerros asked to clarify.

“We are under orders to see you straight through where the army of Nesmoru lies in wait to kill you. For this reason, you may not pass.”

“Do you not mean King Nesmoru?” Atol asked.

“He is not my king!” the guard corrected.

The thunder grew louder as the black clouds swirled and lightning flashed. Suddenly the ground began to shake. Breaking through the tree line, a young woman and giant of a man flanked by two minotaurs stepped out onto the field.

“Who are they?” Cerros asked the soldier.

“She is a summoner. I have not seen the man in battle, so I know neither his skills nor his weakness,” Atol said.

“We shall soon discover his courage,” Cerros growled, drawing forth his swords.

“We are forbidden to help, but by some misfortune,” the guard smiled, “I may fail to strike you and wound them.”

“I pray it may not come to that,” Cerros said.

As Idrian landed in the middle of the field, Atol turned to face the guard.

“Make ready for we may need your help.”

The rumble of thunder grew louder and lightning flashed in the drenching rain.

“I am ready to die if it is my time,” Atol proclaimed.

“If that be true, take the foe with you on the journey,” Cerros said.

“I will see to it.”

 

*          *          *

 

Nyriad giggled when she saw Idrian drop from the sky and land in the open field.

“At last! The creature that killed my precious Kodaz. I shall take great pleasure in bathing in its blood.”

“Nyriad,” Edron warned.

“What?” Nyriad whined.

Edron turned to his sister and held up his hammer. Turning it over, he studied it then looked at her with a smile.

“So be it, but the others are mine.”

“Only at my death!” she squealed with delight.

“If necessary,” Edron said, a darkness in his eyes.

When their eyes met, Nyriad whispered,

“It begins!”

With a roar, Edron raised his hammer and charged onto the field.

“Bring them to me,” she added as the minotaurs followed.

“This will be a most memorable day,” Nyriad whispered as a sparkle of energy ran down her bare back and the trees behind her writhed.

Published in: on May 17, 2016 at 3:19 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 68

The sky over Ethion grew dark and threatening as thunder rumbled, shaking the earth, and flashes of lightning danced on the horizon.

“The enemy fills the heavens with the storm to block the sun,” Razham said, watching the weather.

“Does he fear the light?” Cerros asked, a bit skeptical.

“The rays of the sun burn him. Evil cannot stand in the presence of light, not in its purest form,” Razham explained.

Satisfied with his answer, Cerros looked out over the hills as they rode.

“The kingdom has changed,” he said as they neared Willowthorne Monastery.

“I have not passed this way since the days of my youth, but I fear the enemy is even now fortifying his position,” Cerros said.

“He knows the true king has returned to take his rightful place on the throne, so he seeks victory behind a legion of men who will lay down their lives for a false leader,” Razham replied.

The messenger’s letters had beseeched them both to leave at once for Willowthorne Monastery. When they cleared the line of trees, they at last saw the old church up ahead over the next hill. Weary from the long journey, they rode the rest of the way in silence. As they approached the gates, an old monk, his long pearl white beard lifting in the strong wind, stepped out to greet them.

“Welcome, travelers. I am Brother Egil. I am he who summoned you. We must speak at once, but first come inside and rest for you have traveled far,” he said, taking the horses’ reins.

Uneasy with this sudden hospitality, Cerros kept his hand on his sword as he cautiously climbed down from his mount.

“Why have you summoned us here?” he asked the old monk.

“I wish to stop the undoing of mankind, but for that I need your help,” Brother Egil said.

Looking toward Razham, he said, “You are Razham of the south islands.”

“I am. You know of my homeland?” Razham asked in surprise.

“I have seen it in a dream,” the old monk replied.

While Brother Egil led the way, he asked many questions of Razham. Cerros warily followed at a distance. They moved down several long passages until they reached a chamber with two beds.

“Please rest now. I shall wait for the others to arrive. We shall speak again soon,” Brother Egil said.

Remaining vigilant, Cerros sat down on the cot and lay back. With his hand on his sword, he decided to close his eyes for just a moment. His weary bones rested against the soft straw, and before he could protest, he drifted into slumber.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Cerros woke to the sound of voices nearby. When he looked over toward the other cot, he saw that Razham was not in the chamber. At once, he rose to his feet and followed the sound until he came upon another room where Razham and Brother Egil were seated at a table deep in conversation with two other men who stood just inside the doorway. One of the men was dressed in a long robe with his face hidden beneath the folds. Cerros recognized the other man as Terrin. He stood strong and bold.

There you are!” Cerros snapped, crossing to Terrin and seizing his arm.

“Where did you go?” Cerros demanded. “Do you know how long we searched for you?”

“My name is Alidus, and you will unhand me. Now!” Terrin insisted.

“Not until you explain,” Cerros refused.

“It is best that you release his arm,” The man in the robe cautioned.

Ignoring the warning, Cerros snapped, “Answer me. What is your defense?”

Terrin closed his eyes, and in a flash his body was wreathed in fire. Cerros let go at once, and the fire went out. Terrin looked at him and said,

“My name is Alidus, and I am your king.”

“My liege, please. This monastery is quite old and could easily set ablaze,” Brother Egil pleaded.

“Of course. My apologies,” Alidus said.

“The king’s disappearance was necessary for if he had stayed with you, he would not have met me.” said the tall figure beside Alidus. As he spoke, he stepped into the room.

“Please remove your robe,” Brother Egil said. “You are among friends here. There is no need to hide.”

Atol hesitated but when Alidus reassured him, he removed his robe and stretched to his full height.

Cerros was taken aback by the tall gaunt creature that emerged from beneath the robe.

“My friends, this is Atol the Shepherd, the only one of his kind. He is the steward of Idrian and Olon,” Brother Egil announced.

“Idrian and Olon?” Razham asked.

“Come with me,” Brother Egil said.

The old monk led everyone outside then took them to a nearby field.

Atol looked toward the sky, closed his eyes then softly whistled into the wind. Suddenly a dark cloud formed overhead, and with a mighty roar, a large creature dropped from the sky and landed with a thump on the ground before them. As Cerros stared at the giant pantherlike creature, its wings outstretched, he quickly drew his sword from its sheath.

“This is Idrian,” Atol said.

Suddenly a dull gray figure exploded from the ground next to Cerros, grabbed his sword in its jaws, and disappeared beneath the soil.

Cerros whirled around, searching for the thief, until Atol said,

“And that was Olon.”

When Atol tapped his foot on the hard earth, a creature shaped like a dolphin with legs crawled out of the ground, the sword of Cerros in its grip.

“Here is your weapon returned, sir,” Atol said, handing the sword over to Cerros.

Alidus turned his eyes toward Brother Egil.

“Why have you called us here?” he asked the old monk.

“I will explain in due time. Our last two guests have yet to arrive,” Brother Egil replied.

“Our last two guests?” Alidus asked.

With a twinkle in his eyes, the old monk smiled, “Yes. The soldier and the necromancer.”

Published in: on December 16, 2015 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 67

Nyriad watched gleefully through the eyes of her stone golem as it roared and shook the ground. The frightened villagers ran towards it with makeshift weapons but quickly retreated when the creature advanced.

“They are trapped,” she giggled. “My baby has blocked their escape. Soon they will bow to the master or die.”

She glanced over at Edron for a response.

“Bow or die,” he shrugged with no feeling.

“You should not be doing this, sister. Master commanded us to wait quietly for his orders. You defy him,” Edron warned.

“I am waiting quietly. It is my baby who roars and attacks the people,” she snickered.

Turning back to the village, she once again looked through the eyes of her golem and watched as the people tried in vain to defeat her stone creature.

Suddenly Prince Alidus walked through the crowd toward the golem.

“There he is,” she said in singsong.

“Sister, remember you must answer for your disobedience.”

Fascinated, Nyriad ignored her brother’s warnings as she watched Alidus march towards the creature.

“He is about to fight my baby, Edron. You must come and see,” Nyriad squealed with delight.

“You know only you can see through the creature’s eyes, sister. Master gave me a different power,” Edron said, admiring the giant war hammer the master had awarded him.

When the golem threw a mound of earth, Alidus rolled out of the way then rolled again to avoid a second attack.

Getting to his feet, he pulled back his hands and a spark of flame appeared in each palm. As he brought his hands together, the flame grew brighter, and when they touched, a stream of fire as thick as a ship’s mast erupted from his palms.

Nyriad only laughed,

“He is trying to burn my baby.”

“Your powers are strong, sister, but those who are proud always pay a price,” Edron advised.

Irritated by her brother’s repeated warnings, Nyriad ignored him and watched as her golem stomped against the torrent of fire towards Alidus.

When the golem overtook Alidus and fell upon him, Nyriad could barely contain her glee.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Atol watched in horror as the full weight of the stone golem fell upon Alidus.

Looking down at Olon, he said,

“I fear the sire is crushed. Bring Idrian. We need his help.”

Once Atol began running toward Alidus, Olon disappeared beneath the soil. Atol knew that if the young prince were yet alive, there was little time to save him.

As Atol flew past the body of a dead village woman, a white burst of energy struck the corpse and the woman suddenly stood and ran to catch Atol.

“It may be that he no longer lives,” she said.

“The young prince is stronger than the common man,” Atol responded. “In this, I have hope.”

When they had almost reached Alidus, the ground slowly began to rumble.

“What is that?” Atol asked, his footing unstable.

“This is the work of the summoner. Perhaps he replaces the fallen one,” the dead woman suggested.

“No, look!” Atol said, pointing toward the stone golem.

All around the golem, fissures split the earth as the rumbling grew stronger and fire belched forth through the cracks.

“We must move to a safe place, behind something,” Atol warned, fighting to stand upright. “There. That rock!”

Atol and the woman fought their way through the screaming villagers who were fleeing in terror and chaos as more fissures appeared.

Suddenly a column of fire large enough to engulf a great beast exploded from the ground beneath the golem, launching the stone creature skyward.

As the golem flew through the air, it released a loud roar of protest and defeat. When the fire slowly died down, Atol peered out from behind the boulder. Singed from the blast of fire, the dead woman fell backward as the white energy shot from her body.

Suddenly the bell in the tower began to ring. Atol watched, as Alidus stood tall in the blackened crater where the golem had fallen on him, driving him into the earth.

Alidus stepped out of the crater and made his way toward Atol.

Just before the prince reached Atol, a young man came rushing toward them.

“Atol the shepherd?” the young man called.

“I am he,” Atol replied.

“I have a message,” the young man said, reaching out.

Then he turned toward Alidus and bowed low.

“My liege, I bring a message for you.”

Alidus took the offered note, thanked the messenger, and opened the parchment. After he read the contents, he looked up and said,

“It seems I have been summoned to a meeting.”

At that moment, the familiar sound of rushing air told them Idrian was nearby.

“Would you care for a ride?” Atol asked. “It appears we have been summoned to the same meeting.”

Published in: on November 19, 2015 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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