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 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 78

Razham grabbed Gonorap and fled, leaving behind the screeching woman. Grabbing the crumbling banister, he raced to the bottom of the stairs. When he stepped outside, he suddenly stopped as droves of burned people poured out of the surrounding buildings.

“Nightmare creatures,” Gonorap said in a panic. “Nightmare creatures come for Gonorap.”

“No, little one. Not yet,” Razham said hurrying back into the house.

He saw that the woman was now on the stairs. As she let out an unnatural scream and suddenly dove at Razham, he quickly moved aside then bolted up the stairs.

When he reached the top, Razham put Gonorap down and ordered,

“Go find the weakest section of wall. I will keep them back as long as I can.”

As Gonorap fled, Razham turned to face the woman. This time when she lunged at him, he struck her with his staff, doubling her over as she tumbled down the stairs. The force of her falling body knocked over two of the burned creatures who had found their way into the house.

As Razham fought, Gonorap searched frantically. He saw many small spaces where he could slip through and escape, but he remembered that the holy man had promised to protect him.

“Must find weak spot. Must find weak spot,” he repeated.

He scratched and dug until he was exhausted but found no weak section of the wall.

“Gonorap cannot find weakness!” he cried out.

“You must keep searching,” Razham yelled, his eyes steadfast on the attacking creatures.

With quick movements, Razham rotated his staff, striking one attacker across the jaw. The creature flailed its arms then fell over the railing.

Another spin of his staff and Razham struck a second creature, sending it flying against a wall.

“Gonorap found door!” Gonorap yelled.

Razham knew he was out of time. The burned creatures kept coming and would soon overpower him.

When Razham ran toward Gonorap’s voice, he saw the little creature waiting. Scooping him up, Razham hurried through the door and slammed it shut behind him.

“Hold tightly and do not release me,” he instructed Gonorap.

“Gonorap afraid,” Gonorap whimpered.

Razham looked into the creature’s eyes and said, “Trust me, little one.”

Just then he saw another door on the other side of the room and stepped quickly toward it. As he pulled at the latch, he heard the burned creatures screaming as they clawed at the bedroom door.

The latch gave way and the door opened onto a balcony overlooking the street. Razham stepped out to the edge of the balcony and stood still for a moment, judging the distance.

Then running back to the opposite end of the room, Razham took a deep breath and focused his energy.

“What? What?” Gonorap cried out.

Razham gave no answer but began running toward the balcony. As he ran through the room, the creatures broke down the bedroom door and poured in. With Gonorap’s fingers digging into his cloak, Razham dove over the railing and closed his eyes.

Over his shoulder, Gonorap screamed in terror.

Just seconds before he hit the ground, Razham vanished.

* * *

When Razham reappeared, Gonorap fell from his shoulder and vomited.

“I am sorry, little one,” Razham said.

Slowly Razham stood and looked around. He saw that they were on the roof of the house across the street.

“How Gonorap get here?” Gonorap asked.

“It is a small trick of my people. Though it is not difficult, it does leave me weary,” Razham said as he lay down.

When Gonorap started to speak, Razham cautioned,

“Keep your voice down and we should be safe here for a while,” Razham said. “I must restore my strength.”

Gonorap crawled up to Razham and whispered,

“We find necromancer.”

“Yes, little one,” Razham said. “We must leave this place for there is nothing we can do here.”

“We leave now,” Gonorap said.

“As soon as I have rested, we will find the necromancer,” Razham assured him.

After a few moments, the screaming of the burned creatures died down and Razham began to feel his strength returning. Suddenly a loud hissing noise caught his attention.

“What is that noise?” he asked as he sat up.

“Nightmare creature! Nightmare creature!” Gonorap repeated.

Razham quickly stood and saw that one of the burned creatures was crawling up onto the roof.

“Leave now! Leave now!” Gonorap whimpered.

When the burned creature opened its mouth to call the others, Razham reached for his staff then heard a thuuup as a black arrow shot through the air. Its point pierced the creature, pinning it to the rooftop.

Razham whirled around and spotted a figure up in the branches of a tree two houses down the street.

The archer leapt down from the tree and across the rooftops until she stood near them.

Without a word, she walked over to the creature, bent over, and pulled the arrow free from its target. As she slipped the arrow back into her quiver, the creature’s body slid off the roof.

Eyeing her cautiously, Razham decided that she posed no threat.

“Thank you,” he said.

“There is no need,” she answered.

Gonorap pulled on the hem of Razham’s cloak pleading,

“Leave now.”

“A moment,” Razham replied.

“You must go. It is not safe here,” the woman said.

“Why are you here?” Razham asked.

“Would that I were helping people, but the truth is not so noble. I have come to this place to correct the sins of my past. Within this city is a person, some say an immortal, who engages those who would kill for gold. I fear that if this evil triumphs in the kingdom, the world will soon perish. And so I must destroy this man, this one they call immortal, and set right my transgressions.”

Razham watched the woman’s eyes as if to see her heart. Then he looked down at Gonorap and considered the small creature.

“Gonorap, we cannot let her make this trek alone.”

Turning to the woman, he said, “We shall help you, at least until we have paid our debt to you.”

“You owe me nothing. You may go on your way,” she answered.

“To do so would be dishonorable. Besides, I believe we search for the same man,” Razham said.

“I am Razham,” he said extending his hand.

“I was once known as Lady Elizabeth,” she said accepting his hand.

“Oh no. This troubles Gonorap,” Gonorap sighed.

Published in: on October 16, 2016 at 10:57 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 63

As Aric stared in disbelief, Vanamir froze, the sacrificial blade inches from Isaac’s chest.

“What are you?” Vanamir asked, unable to free himself from the strange hold upon him.

Lifting his arms into the air, Degan commanded,

“Rise!”

Vanamir slowly straightened up as the ground in the clearing began to rumble and skeletal hands pushed upward, breaking through the earth’s surface. Vanamir’s followers watched in horror as all around them the dead rose and turned toward Degan, awaiting orders.

With a twist of his hands, the straps of leather that had bound him fell away and Degan’s hands were free.

“Attack!” Vanamir yelled to his followers.

But when Degan snapped his fingers, one of the dead stepped forward and seized Vanamir by the throat, lifting him into the air.

“Tell them to halt,” Degan simply said.

“Halt,” Vanamir choked.

Degan smiled and slowly walked toward Vanamir. At his approach, the army of the dead, twice the number of Vanamir’s men, stepped aside to let him pass.

When he reached the edge of the fire pit, he waved a dismissing hand and the skeleton released its grip, dropping Vanamir to the ground. Degan looked at Aric and said,

“Get the boy.”

Aric quickly freed himself and grabbed Isaac, lifting him off the pyre and hurrying away from the altar. He stopped momentarily and looked back at Degan. Knowing Aric was taking the boy to safety, Degan nodded his agreement.

Turning back to Vanamir, Degan said, “I have many questions to ask. To begin, why did you kill the boy’s parents?”

“They were of no value to me,” Vanamir said.

“Why?” Degan asked.

When Vanamir refused to answer, Degan commanded,

“Turn the knife on yourself.”

Though visibly struggling, Vanamir began to turn the knife toward himself.

“Will you answer me,” Degan said, “or shall I have you kill yourself slowly?”

“I will answer,” Vanamir agreed. “The man owed me money and could not pay.”

Just then one of the cultists grabbed a weapon.

“Master!” he screamed, turning on the nearest of the dead.

For a moment, Degan lost concentration and Vanamir, freed from Degan’s hold, began to flee as more and more cultists yelled and attacked the dead.

“Fight!” Degan commanded the dead.

As the dead let out a terrible roar, Degan ran after Vanamir.

The escaping Vanamir raced through a burned and crumbling archway that led into a large courtyard. A massive fountain now stood empty, its ornate carvings covered with gnarled vines rising from the blackened earth and rocks.

“Stop!” Degan commanded.

Instantly Vanamir was still.

“Turn around,” Degan ordered.

Vanamir turned around slowly and after a moment began to smile.

“Your power has limits, Necromancer. Your reach cannot extend to me and your army. It seems you must choose,” Vanamir said. “Who will you command?”

Vanamir took a step backwards toward the fountain.

“I said stop!” Degan ordered.

“If you move close enough to stop me, you lose control of the dead,” Vanamir reminded him.

Degan knew Vanamir was right. If he moved too far away from his army of the dead, they would weaken and the cult of fire worshippers would come after him.

Vanamir took another step back and boasted, “It seems our dance will have to wait until another day, Necromancer.”

Quickly turning away from Degan, Vanamir ran right into Aric’s sword.

“He has no power over me,” Aric said, lifting Vanamir into the air with the blade of the sword.

Coughing up black blood, Vanamir groped for the sword’s blade.

Taking a step forward, Aric turned his sword and plunged its blade into the ground, pinning Vanamir to the earth.

Just before Vanamir’s corpse dissolved into the earth, Aric cursed, “I hope you suffer a thousand times for every life you took.”

“Where is the boy?” Degan asked.

“I left him in a safe place until I could return,” Aric answered.

“Guard!” Degan yelled.

One of the dead marched up and stood at attention.

“Find the boy. Let no harm come to him,” Degan commanded.

Turning, the dead guard hurried away.

“Halt!” Degan yelled.

At once the guard stopped.

“Keep yourself hidden from the boy. He is afraid.”

The guard nodded understanding and left.

“Let us finish this,” Aric said.

Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 60

Aric stared at his swords resting on the stones atop the building and his spirit grew faint within him. This evil man, responsible for the deaths of so many, had rendered him helpless in his fear for the child Isaac’s life. Aric longed to take up his swords and put an end to this darkness, but he knew he could not.

“Well done,” Vanamir said. “Now you will stop the necromancer.”

Aric lifted the leather bag and freed the sleeping Gonorap, tossing him down to a mound of earth near where he had last seen Degan. At once the dead flesh of the golem fell away until only Degan remained.

Degan, tired and confused, looked over at Gonorap then up to Aric.

“I am sorry,” Aric called down.

“Excellent. Now let us join your friend, and I shall escort you to meet someone special. My followers will be watching us and are under my orders. If you try to escape or do anything to thwart my plans, the word will go out and the boy will die,” Vanamir warned.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

Forced to obey, Aric followed Vanamir and his slaves through the ruined remains of the city as Degan marched alongside.

“Why?” Degan asked.

“I had no choice. He holds the boy Isaac captive,” Aric explained.

“Where is the boy?” Degan demanded of Vanamir.

“He will be with us shortly,” Vanamir said. “I must first bring you to my master. You are his new vessel. And this meddling ranger he will crush beneath his heel like some troublesome beetle.”

Walking through the cluttered streets, Aric and Degan heard chanting that grew louder and louder as they passed the skeletons lying about.

When Degan saw a few of them turn their heads toward him, he quickly quieted them with a glance in the hopes that his captors had not seen them move. The victorious Vanamir had failed to bring Gonorap with them.

“What do you mean Degan is to be your master’s vessel?” Aric asked.

“My master prepared the birth and life of the necromancer for a specific purpose, to be his new vessel. He will then rise in full strength to reenter this world and take his rightful place,” Vanamir explained.

“Rightful place?” Degan asked.

“As a god,” Vanamir said with a smile.

When they turned the corner, Aric saw before them a pyre and a great fire whose flames rose high into the air. Encircling the fire, worshippers draped in black cloth fell to their knees lifting their voices in a strange chant.

“Now you will be sacrificed to the lesser god of creation, the eternal flame,” Vanamir said.

“Wait here,” he ordered Degan.

“Where is the boy?” Aric shouted.

“He is here,” Vanamir said as two of the cultists dragged the terrified boy forward.

“Let him go!” Aric shouted.

“Bring the ranger and the boy to the altar,” he commanded his followers.

Three cultists grabbed Aric, forcing him up to the altar.

Vanamir turned to Degan with a warning.

“You will not interfere, Necromancer, or their deaths will be long.”

Degan studied Vanamir and discovered something.

“You have seen death. I can smell it on you.”

Vanamir smiled and said, “Yes. Every time I die, the master brings me back, and I return with greater power.”

He turned and walked over to the altar set atop the pyre.

“My children, we have gathered to appease the wrathful appetite of your god the eternal flame. Today we will quench his thirst and he will grant our god the power to enter our realm.”

In their frenzy, the chanting of the worshippers grew louder as Vanamir brought forth a large dagger with a twisted blade.

Looking down at Isaac, now bound to the altar, he raised the blade over the boy.

“We are born from fire, and to fire we return these sacrifices,” Vanamir yelled.

Just as Vanamir pulled back on the dagger, Degan whispered,

“Stop.”

Suddenly Vanamir’s hand stopped in mid air, the blade just inches from Isaac’s chest.

Dragon Fire: Episode 57

From atop the building, Aric watched in horror as Degan’s army of the dead crawled over the cultists like wolves over a wounded animal. The cries of the cultists were lost in the shrieks of the bloodthirsty dead pouring from the ground like ants from a disturbed hill.

“May the gods forgive us for what we have done,” Aric said.

 

 

*          *            *

 

 

From the shadows, Vanamir watched gleefully as the cultists struggled to overpower the growing horde of dead.

“Master, your new vessel is powerful indeed. Once he is under your control, you will not be stopped,” Vanamir said with a smile.

He knew his followers the cultists would not last long against such raw power wielded by the necromancer. Drawing his knife from its sheath, Vanamir held his hand over the burned soil and drew the blade across his flesh. Black blood seeped from the wound and dripped to the ground.

“Give me power, Master, so that I may fight this army in your name.”

As the drops of blood seeped into the soil, the earth began to bubble like potion in a boiling cauldron. From the ground rose a hand of bone, reaching upward then slamming to the ground. Slowly the body formed from rock, dirt and black blood given in sacrifice emerged, rising to full height and strength.

Towering above the rooftops, it stretched out its arms and howled, shaking the earth.

“Slaughter them,” Vanamir commanded. “Tear them apart.”

 

 

*          *            *

 

 

Aric took a step back in horror as a humanoid creature from the earth rose high above the buildings.

“Degan!” Aric yelled down. “Beware!”

Degan turned and saw the creature then looked back at his army and ordered,

“To me.”

Immediately the army of the dead stopped and returned to Degan. As the cultists formed rank, rallying behind the creature, Degan went down on his knees and whispered something only the dead could hear. At once the dead fell upon him, piling higher and higher until Degan could no longer be seen. From under the pile of dead flesh, a large hand suddenly reached out, followed by another. The two arms of dead flesh pushed up and a towering golem rose from the earth.

When the cultists saw the giant golem of decayed flesh, their cheers died down and they moved closer to the creature of black blood.

Laying down the leather bag with the sleeping Gonorap, Aric searched the street for Degan.

As the cultists advanced, the dead golem crushed their bodies beneath its feet, growing larger as each dead body attached itself. Lunging at the blood creature, the golem struck it across the jaw, sending it staggering backwards. Pulling earth up through its feet, the creature quickly reformed.

Aric watched in wonder as the two traded blows. Each time the creatures went down, they were restored with earth or the scattered dead.

“Fie,” a man groaned behind Aric. Aric spun around, drawing his sword in one motion, to face Vanamir the ranger.

“These battles rage far too long.”

“Much time has passed since we parted. What were you about?” Aric asked.

“Come now. You seek the answer to another question. A question for which you have the answer, do you not? Vanamir asked.

Aric looked into Vanamir’s eyes.

“Who are you?” he asked.

Vanamir winched then said, “That is not the true question, is it? I am Vanamir. I obey the evil that was once in power and will soon return to its glory. Your friend Degan is the vessel my master was to command, but you have made repossession of this vessel somewhat difficult. That is why I am here, to carry out my master’s will.”

“At what price?” Aric asked.

Vanamir considered the battle for a moment. “Every victory has a cost. Look beyond the war,” he said, pointing to one of the buildings below.

Aric looked in the direction Vanamir was pointing.

Standing at a window was one of the cultists, restraining a young boy. He held a knife at the child’s throat as he pressed him against the windowpane. Aric took a step closer then said with sudden panic and realization,

“Isaac?”

Seething with anger, Aric spun around to face Vanamir

“Who are you!” he roared.

Vanamir smiled.

“There it is. That is the question I have been waiting for. I will tell you everything and even spare the boy’s life under one condition.”

Vanamir pointed down to the battle waging in the burned out street.

“Tell Degan to cease,” Vanamir opened his hand and held it out to Aric, “and surrender to me.”

Aric felt his muscles tighten and his heart begin to pound in his ears like a horse’s hooves across a battlefield. But in that moment, he dropped his swords.

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Dragon Fire: Episode 54

Aric drew his swords as the cry of the burned highwayman brought more bodies out of the shadows. He took a step back and called out to Degan,

“Are these the dead you spoke of?”

“No. These souls have not been released from the body. They scream in pain, yearning to be free, to be counted among the dead,” Degan answered.

Aric slipped down from his horse and raised his swords to attack.

“I suggest you raise your own army, Degan, for even with my swordsman skills, we will soon lose this battle and count ourselves among the dead.”

“I can do nothing, for the creature Gonorap sleeps with the poison of the dart. Unless he is far from me, my powers are as useless as he is.”

Just then the highwayman lunged at Aric. His movements were slow enough to track yet swift enough that Aric knew his pride of swordsmanship could weaken him.

“Careful,” Degan said. “There is a magic cast around them that keeps them from feeling the pain of their injuries. Their slow movements are hypnotic.”

Again the highwayman lunged, but this time Aric was ready. He quickly spun out of the way, driving his swords to their mark. Aric heard the sound of ripping cloth and flesh. As the highwayman stumbled forward, the cloth of his cloak ripped and his severed right arm fell to the ground.

Although pleased at his victory, Aric stood on guard and readied for another attack. The highwayman raised his left arm and lunged again, stepping on his own severed arm lying in the dirt. Aric thrust his left sword, catching the highwayman in his belly. The burned face looked down at the wound then lifted, snarling with blackened twisted teeth

Aric raised his right sword and slashed off the highwayman’s head.

“Is there nothing human in these creatures?” Aric said, pulling his sword free.

“They are beyond pain, beyond fear. They hear only the call of destruction, the call of their goddess,” Degan explained.

“They do not act like cultists of any god I know,” Aric said.

“They worship the goddess of fire only, the element of destruction and rebirth,” Degan said.

As more bodies appeared, reaching out for Aric and Degan, Aric asked,

“Why must they destroy us? Might they pass over destruction and advance to rebirth?”

“For someone to be reborn, Aric, they must first be destroyed,” Degan reminded him.

“I understand that your powers are now useless, but is there nothing you can do to help?” Aric asked. “Shall I keep fighting until they overtake me?”

“There is one thing,” Degan said as he dismounted.

Degan closed his eyes and began speaking in a murmur. Suddenly the ground rumbled, throwing dirt and rock into the air. As the rumbling grew louder, the dirt and rock came together, encasing Degan’s feet and working its way up his body until it completely covered him. The mass of dirt and rock transformed into the shape of a human then stepped forward leaving Degan behind. Aric watched in wonder while the dirt creature took powerful thundering strides towards the encroaching cultists.

As these worshippers of the goddess fire charged the dirt creature, it slapped them away like winged insects.

“This creature of dirt is a golem,” Degan explained.

“I have never seen you use it before,” Aric said.

“It is a single-minded creature for it will not stop until everyone but me is dead,” Degan said.

“I am not comforted by this news, my friend,” Aric pointed out.

“I shall try to keep it under my control,” Degan said. “As long as the little creature Gonorap sleeps, I can do nothing else to fight these great numbers against us.”

Aric glanced down at the sack resting at Degan’s hip. He remembered the witch’s curse that as long as the creature was close to Degan, the dead would not rise and Degan would be free from them until they were needed.

“I have an idea,” Aric said. “Give me the bag.”

Although Degan was confused, he trusted Aric’s wisdom. Quickly loosening the straps of the leather bag at his hip, he threw it to Aric. Aric grabbed the bag, pulled it over his shoulder and ran for the nearest building.

Degan watched with pain as the cultists swarmed over the golem like ants.

When Aric reached the building, he leapt to its side and hurried to pull himself up. Once he reached the top, he looked back to see the golem going down.

“Is this far enough?” Aric yelled out.

Degan watched the highwayman retrieve his severed head from the dirt and rise.

“It will do,” Degan yelled back.

As the highwayman turned his severed head to face the other cultists, the ground began to quake and hands pushed out from the walls of the buildings.

“You have left many souls here to suffer,” Degan said. “Now they have found their voice and wish to say something.”

When Degan’s smile broadened and a black energy washed over him, the terrified cultists began to retreat.

“Take them!” Degan commanded.

At once, the air was filled with the screams of the dead.

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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