Dragon Fire: Episode 88

When the high priest Zephryses neared the castle of Ethion, he saw King Isembart strolling along the porch. Bending down to the young boy Zephryn, he said,

“There is the king. Stay by my side, bow your head in the presence of his majesty, and do not speak unless the king questions you. Do you understand?”

After Zephryn shyly nodded, the two began to climb the stone steps leading up to the porch.

King Isembart, a tall robust man with a beard reaching down to his stomach, saw the priest approach and with surprising exuberance and agility bounded down the steps toward him with the palace guards, the queen and the princess close behind.

“Zephryses, my dear friend. I knew sending you to the woods was a wise decision. There is no man I trust more,” Isembart said with a deep laugh.

Clapping the priest on the back, Isembart looked at Queen Calathene and asked,

“Did I not tell you?”

Turning back to Zephryses, he continued.

“She did not believe you would succeed. Why the news reached my ears that you moved the elements themselves!”

With a hearty laugh, the king said in jest, “Perhaps I should build a temple to you instead of the gods.”

Although Zephryses found himself somewhat uncomfortable at the idea, he could not help by remember that the captain of the king’s army had made a similar remark.

Suddenly King Isembart noticed the child standing next to the priest and asked,

“And who are you?”

“Al—,” the boy began but was interrupted when Zephryses corrected him.

“Zephryn. The boy’s name is Zephryn. He is my son now and shall be joining me in the church, taking the title of priest when he grows up.”

“Well it is a pleasure to meet you, little priest,” the king greeted. “You know my daughter Lillian is about your age.”

Turning to Princess Lillian, Isembart instructed,

“Lilly, show Zephryn around the castle while I speak with the high priest. Take care that you do not wander beyond the castle walls.”

“Yes, Father,” the princess answered.

As King Isembart continued his stroll along the castle porch, with Zephryses at his side, Princess Lillian walked up to Zephryn and introduced herself.

“I am Princess Lillian.”

“I am Al—Zephryn,” the boy said, still struggling with his strange new name.

Princess Lillian looked around to see if anyone was listening. Then she softly asked,

“What was your name?”

“Allaster,” Zephryn answered, “but the high priest said that I am to be called Zephryn from now on.”

“This change of names is a tradition here in Ethion started long ago by my great-great- grandfather King Estmon. When he was chosen to marry the princess and become king, he wanted to be seen as king and not the boy who grew up in the streets. So he made a law that all who take up the rank of royalty or a position in the church must adopt a new name so they will be seen as a new person for a new age.”

As Princess Lillian recited, she held her hands together and slightly raised her head as she had been taught.

With the sweet smile of innocence, she giggled then said,

“When I become queen, Father says I shall adopt the name Lachert, renouncing my birth name.”

Shyly, Zephryn softly said,

“I like the name Lillian better.”

Princess Lillian leaned in and whispered in Zephryn’s ear,

“I do too!”

As she reached out and took Zephryn’s hand, she said,

“The high priest spends a great while counseling with my father, so we have a lot of time to play games. My favorite is hide-and-seek. Do you want to see some of my favorite spots?”

“Yes,” Zephryn agreed.

With her best smile, Princess Lillian whirled around and hurried into the castle, pulling  Zephryn along with her.

 

*          *          *

15 years later

 

 

Valdis and Trystan raced across the field, the pouch of gold bouncing with each step.

“Why did you have to stab that man?” Valdis demanded.

“He saw you stealing his gold! You would have felt the blade of his knife! What choice did I have?” Trystan snapped.

“Not to stab him! Now we are running for our lives. Know this! I will crawl over you to survive!” Valdis warned.

“If we can just reach the others, we should be safe,” Trystan said, ignoring his threat.

They dove behind a fallen tree in their path to hide and catch their breath.

“Yes, if we can. But in truth, we will be fortunate if we live long enough to be arrested. Did you not see who is after us?” Valdis asked in exasperation.

“A creature?” Trystan answered.

“He is a man, a warrior called the Animal. There are tales of him prowling through the forest at night with a large wolf at his side. They say he never brings anyone to prison because he eats them instead,” Valdis claimed.

“Foolish tales,” Trystan insisted.

Suddenly a long howl came from the grove of trees behind them.

“You may wait and discover how foolish the tale is, but I will not!” Valdis said.

When Trystan tried to rise and flee, he found that his legs would not move.

Valdis jumped up, flew over the log, and tried to dash away, but before he could escape, a man with skin browned from the sun and red hair bright as fire leapt out from the trees and grabbed him, pulling him into the tree line.

Trystan listened in horror as Valdis pleaded for mercy. Then he heard a thump and silence.

From out of the woods, the brown man tramped, blood on his chest and pants. As he held a dagger dripping with blood, his wild eyes seemed to look through the terrified Trystan. With each breath, his great chest heaved. Then he slowly came toward Trystan, growling as he moved closer, his bare feet crushing the roots and rocks beneath them.

Published in: on August 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 87

The Priest

 

 

 

Settling into a chair by the fire, Brother Egil thought carefully about how he would begin the story of the king’s father.

King Alidus gazed into the flames, waiting patiently.

After a few moments, the old monk began.

“The Kingdom of Ethion has a troubled past. First came the Valkovian invasion then the Children of Dusk—”

Alidus raised a hand to interrupt.

“My apologies, but what is the Valkovian invasion?”

Brother Egil studied the king’s face for a moment then his eyes lit up with understanding.

“King Lanidus did not tell you. Despite his love for your mother, he was ashamed of the history of Ethion. The Valkovian invasion took place one hundred forty-seven years ago when a race of men known as the Valkovians took control of the kingdom, ousting your great-grandfather Tobias Ashblood from the throne. After a time, King Tobias regained the throne and exiled the Valkovians from the land.”

“What kept them from returning?” Alidus asked. “Could they not enter the land and live hidden among the people?”

Brother Egil nodded and said, “Valkonian men and women are born with the same physical traits, a gem the size of a coin imbedded in their right hand and small spikes running down the back of their neck. Among the Valkonians, these strange features have many different colors, passed on from parents to children. But whatever color a child is born with, both gems and spikes share that color. More importantly, these unusual traits store a great amount of magical energy.”

“Making obscurity difficult. I understand. And who were the Children of Dusk?”

“The Children of Dusk were a small faction of religious zealots within the Valkovian race who worshiped an ancient evil named Authrax. They believed Authrax lived in a cave deep beneath the castle. They would capture people from the surrounding villages, drag them into the caves under the castle, and sacrifice them to their god. When Tobias Ashblood exiled the Valkovians, he commanded that the Children of Dusk be burned alive for heresy.”

“And what about my father?” Alidus asked.

“Your father did not enter into the history of Ethion until many years later, after the siblings Dellano and Arabella. They were known as the Troll King and the Warlton Witch. When your grandfather King Isembart heard that the siblings were marching on the kingdom, he sent his high priest Zephryses to find the source of their power. That search led the priest to Wildeye Woods and the water where the siblings had gained this force. When he drank from the pool, that same power coursed through his body and he returned to drive out the siblings and their army of trolls. But in the aftermath of the battle, Zephryses made the first of two mistakes that would one day end his life. The first mistake was adopting an orphan boy named Allaster. That boy, sire, grew up to be your father.

 

*          *          *

37 years ago

 

The high priest Zephryses stood on the battlefield of Ethion, its lush green hills covered with the dead of both men and trolls. Overcome with grief, he wept at the sight of the city, its walls blackened and crumbling by the hand of Arabella the Warlton Witch.

“Many have fallen in this grievous battle,” lamented Captain Dellmore of the King’s Army.

“The price of peace is always high when those who oppose it crave blood,” Zephryses said.

“This new power you wield is like no weapon I have ever seen,” the captain exclaimed. “Did my eyes deceive me or did you move the ground? It was as though you commanded the elements!”

“Perhaps. I do not yet know what powers I drew from the water of the pool,” Zephryses said.

“Soon people may perceive you as a god,” the captain laughed. “I would be most uncomfortable were people to worship me.”

Zephryses laughed in agreement.

“Yes, indeed,” Zephryses said.

At that moment, his attention was distracted by a small boy wandering through the battlefield, his red face stained with tears.

Zephryses walked around the bodies to reach the child.

“What troubles you, my son? Why have you come to his place of grief?” Zephryses asked.

The boy, no older than ten, looked up at the priest, sniffled and said,

“I am looking for my father. He is a soldier.”

“You should be at your mother’s side,” Zephryses said.

“Wolves took my mother last winter. My father told me to stay at home. But I was frightened, so I came looking for him,” the boy explained.

“Come with me. Let us see if we may find him,” Zephryses said

Zephryses lifted the boy and carried him to Captain Dellmore.

“Captain, I am searching for the boy’s father. He is a soldier.”

“What is your father’s name?” the captain asked.

“Ardouin,” the boy answered.

The captain’s face darkened when he heard the name, but before he could speak, Zephryses told the boy,

“Son, your father has gone to be with your mother. They are at peace.”

The boy’s face went pale and he dropped his head. After a moment he looked up and said, “I am alone now. I do not have any other family. I do not know how to be alone.”

Trying to comfort and reassure the child, Zephryses patted the boy’s back and gently set him down.

“Then you shall not be alone. I shall adopt you. Would you like that?”

When the boy failed to respond, Zephryses knelt down and asked,

“What is your name, son?”

The boy looked at the priest and answered,

“Allaster.”

“That is a fine name. From this day forward, Allaster, you will no longer be alone. I shall take care of you.”

When Zephryses opened his arms to the boy, Allaster stepped into the embrace with fresh tears.

Then Zephryses lifted the boy and said,

“Because you will be taking a place in the church, I shall give you a new name, a holy name.”

Zephryses thought for a moment then asked,

“How does Zephryn sound?”

As the child shyly nodded his agreement, Zephryses patted him on the back and said, “Yes. Zephryn will do. Now let us leave this place of sadness and go home.”

At that, the high priest and the boy walked away from the battlefield.

Published in: on July 17, 2017 at 7:34 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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Coming Soon….

Published in: on April 26, 2017 at 8:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 84

When they neared the edge of the next rooftop, Razham slipped past Lady Elizabeth and bent down. Her hand on the bow, Lady Elizabeth scanned the area while a quivering Gonorap clung to Razham. Up ahead they saw a great fire, its flames reaching heavenward, as soulless worshippers danced at its edges, bowing and chanting before it.

“They worship this fire?” Lady Elizabeth wondered aloud.

“In his weakness, man will worship any god that asks nothing of him,” Razham replied.

Her eyes searching through the droves of followers, Lady Elizabeth furrowed her brow and asked,

“Where is he?”

“The archer?” Razham asked. “He is called Vanamir.”

“Yes. I do not see him,” Lady Elizabeth said.

“He will show himself, but we may have to draw him out,” Razham explained.

Lady Elizabeth reached back and pulled a cloth from her quiver.

As she gathered her hair into it, she said, “Then let us drawn him out.”

Pulling back on an arrow, she released and let it fly. The arrow soared through the air and struck one of the worshippers, pinning his head to the ground. Instantly the other followers stopped and grew quiet. Turning toward the rooftop, they began to shriek in an unearthly chorus.

At that, Lady Elizabeth dropped from the rooftop and began slaughtering the worshippers as fast as her weapon would allow.

“Stay here, little one. I must go to help her,” Razham said.

Razham dropped to the ground and scooped a handful of soil. Lifting it to his mouth, he began to mutter mysterious words while he walked away from the building to the middle of the road.

As some of the worshippers poured out into the road, Razham slowly opened his hand, letting the wind stir the soil and lift it into the air in a spinning circle over his palm. Suddenly the worshippers halted their charge and stood perfectly still. In the road behind Razham appeared the faint image of a great bear, its majestic muscles rolling in waves. As the worshippers stared in terror, the towering bear slowly took form and charged toward Razham. Moments before the bear reached him, Razham released the soil and began to fade out of sight. When the bear passed through Razham’s vanishing form, the creature became solid and attacked the stunned group of worshippers. While Lady Elizabeth fired at the followers emptying her quiver, the powerful bear roared and destroyed each worshipper with one swipe of its paw.

On the rooftop, Gonorap watched Razham and Lady Elizabeth, determining in his heart to be brave despite his fear. Clutching the small dagger Lady Elizabeth had given him, he commanded himself to climb down to the ground and join his comrades in the fight.

Her quiver empty, Lady Elizabeth drew her sword from its sheath and sliced her way through the mindless mass as they came at her. It seemed that for every one she brought down, dozens more poured out from the buildings.

Gonorap crept closer toward the battle, hiding behind fallen bodies and anything that would keep him hidden as he looked for a way to help in the fight.

Suddenly he saw the shadowy man with the black oil encircling his frame. Gonorap was puzzled by the change in him for he looked more human than before, enabling him to move closer to Lady Elizabeth without her notice.

When Gonorap tried to call out a warning, he found that his voice caught in his throat. He was too frightened to speak, too afraid to draw attention to himself, even if it meant saving Lady Elizabeth.

 

*          *          *

 

Lady Elizabeth felt a presence behind her, but before she could turn, someone had torn the cloth from her head, seized her hair, and pressed the blade of a knife to her throat. She shuddered when she heard a voice like a file across metal,

“Drop the sword.”

“Vanamir!” she thought.

When she hesitated, Vanamir pressed harder against the blade, cutting the skin and sending blood trickling down her neck.

“Now!” he demanded.

With no other choice, she dropped her sword near her foot.

“HALT!” Vanamir commanded.

The worshippers immediately obeyed.

Speaking to Razham, he said,

“The power you possess is truly amazing, but I cannot be stopped, not by you, not by anyone. Yield or I will open her throat.”

When the bear stood on its hind legs and let out a roar, Vanamir shouted,

“NOW!”

The bear froze then turned as all its color drained away and it broke into a thousand dead leaves that blew away in the wind. Standing in its place was Razham bracing himself on his staff, his strength spent.

“Weary are you?” Vanamir asked. “Excellent! That will make everything easier.”

Lady Elizabeth focused, waiting for a chance to free herself.

“Throw yourself into the fire or I will kill her,” Vanamir threatened.

“You will kill her if I do,” Razham returned.

“Perhaps,” Vanamir said. “But if you refuse me, she will die this day.”

Razham slowly removed himself from the support of the staff then threw it aside.

“No!” Lady Elizabeth pleaded. “Not for me!”

“Quiet!” Vanamir snapped. “I prefer that my future bride be alive, not back from the dead, but I will have you either way.”

Razham spotted movement behind Vanamir and slipped his hand into his pocket.

“You will not move again unless it is into the fire,” Vanamir ordered.

With the loud cry, “I am going to die!” Gonorap leapt at Vanamir, plunging the dagger’s blade deep into his calf.

Just as Vanamir howled in pain and kicked away Gonorap, Lady Elizabeth quickly reached down and snatched up her sword.

But before her blade could find its target, Vanamir had once again seized her and pressed the blade of the knife to her throat.

“Not so fast, my sweet,” Vanamir hissed.

Razham slowly withdrew his hand from his pocket.

“Stop fighting!” Vanamir shouted at Lady Elizabeth.

“Never!” Lady Elizabeth returned.

Raising her sword, she ran the blade through her stomach, impaling Vanamir.

As he gasped for air, Vanamir pushed her away and staggered back on shaking legs.

Razham raised his hand and tossed a small object at Vanamir as a dying Lady Elizabeth crawled away.

Vanamir stepped back when a small acorn landed on the ground before him. He looked up at Razham and smiled.

“You missed.”

“Did you really think you could end my life with a small acorn?” he laughed, stomping it into the earth.

“Navhena does not take life,” Razham said. “She gives it.”

When Vanamir felt the ground beneath him begin to stir, he looked down to see green vines rising up where the acorn had landed.

As the vines tightly wound around Vanamir’s legs, Razham said,

“Her vines will hold you. Her roots will feed you. Her bark will protect you, and her sap will bring life back to this dead soil.”

Vanamir’s struggle proved useless for the vines continued to break through the soil and wrap themselves around him. At last he grew still, and in his place stood a giant tree, its branches sending forth an abundance of blue starflowers. The vines spread from the tree’s base, encircling each of Vanamir’s followers and pulling them underground with a small sapling springing from the earth in their place.

With a woeful heart, Razham walked over to Lady Elizabeth and bent down. When he found that the life had gone out of her, he closed his eyes and said,

“May your soul at last find peace.”

When he stood, vines began to wrap themselves around Lady Elizabeth’s body, but Razham pulled them free and gently lifted her body up over his shoulder. He walked past the tree that now held Vanamir and bent down to pick up Gonorap. The brave little creature was unconscious but alive.

“Fear not, little one. You are safe now. Navhena will protect you and welcome you home,” he comforted.

Tucking Gonorap comfortably into his satchel, Razham retrieved his staff and moved on.

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 3:29 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.

Coming soon

army-unsettled

Published in: Uncategorized on March 3, 2017 at 8:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 82

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

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

Prince Alidus approached Aric and commanded,

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

Aric stood and turned to the guards.

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

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

Aric turned to Alidus and said,

“Lead on, my liege”

Alidus turned to face the tower and strode towards it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stepping aside, he said,

“Uncle, greet your son.”

Aric stepped forward, his sword raised.

Nesmoru took a quick breath as he stared at Aric.

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

Turning back to the stairs, Alidus commanded,

“Guards, come with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh yes. I do remember her.”

He leaned forward a bit and sneered,

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

Aric tightened his grip on the hilt of his sword.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*          *          *

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alidus looked down at the burned corpse of Zulagareth.

“Your power has little worth,” Alidus said.

“Up here, boy,” Zulagareth called.

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

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

“I did,” Alidus returned.

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

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

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

Published in: on February 16, 2017 at 6:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dragon Fire: Episode 81

Watching her every move, Razham followed close behind Lady Elizabeth as she seemed to float from one rooftop to the next.

“Hurry!” Gonorap pushed.

“Patience, little one,” Razham corrected.

“We must hurry. Gonorap runs out of time,” Gonorap pleaded, his voice rising.

Lady Elizabeth stopped and turned to him.

“Down there,” she pointed. “Do you see the creatures milling about in the street?”

Gonorap did not look down but instead kept his eyes on Lady Elizabeth. In the streets below, some of the burned people stood in one place as though waiting for something while others wandered about hunting.

“Yes,” Gonorap answered.

“They are looking for someone, anyone, they may turn to their beliefs or at least devour. The less noise we make, the less likely they are to find us. But the faster we move, the more difficult it is to remain quiet. Patience is what keeps us safe. Do you understand?” Lady Elizabeth asked.

Gonorap stared at her in horror and asked,

“They would eat Gonorap?”

Lady Elizabeth looked him over then said,

“No. I think not.”

Gonorap sighed with relief.

“No. You are too small to eat. They would kill you and feed you to the dogs.”

At that, Gonorap hid his face and began to quiver with fear.

“You are under my protection, little one, but she speaks the truth. We will keep our voices low and speak only when we must,” Razham said.

From rooftop to rooftop, they wound their way through the city. Long ago when the town was built, guards had used the roofs to patrol the city above the crowds. Each roof was connected to another in some way.

“Do you know where Vanamir is?” Razham whispered.

“These creatures who worship fire are under his command. Not far from here, he hides himself,” Lady Elizabeth answered. “I have never encountered an immortal before. What will happen when my arrow pierces his heart?”

“He will return,” Razham said. “He has been killed many times.”

“Then we need to find a way for his death to be final,” Lady Elizabeth declared.

“I have a plan, but I will need protection to carry it out,” Razham said.

“I will guard you as best I can,” Lady Elizabeth promised.

Just then two of the burned creatures stopped beneath them and lingered for a moment. Lady Elizabeth signaled for her companions to remain perfectly still. Once the creatures shuffled down the street, Lady Elizabeth moved forward.

She reached out her foot and stepped onto a board connecting two of the roofs. As she slowly walked across, the board began to creak, drawing the attention of the creatures below. When they turned toward the sound, Lady Elizabeth and Razham quickly lowered their bodies, drawing as close to the rooftop as they could.

After a few minutes, the creatures moved away.

“Gonorap, you must cross the board before me,” Razham instructed.

“Do not leave Gonorap,” the little creature pleaded.

“I will not abandon you, little one. The board is not strong. You must go across then wait beside Lady Elizabeth while I follow,” Razham explained.

Struggling to overcome his fear, Gonorap slowly walked across the board.

After waiting for another burned creature to pass by, Razham rose to his feet and carefully inched his way across the creaky board.

Three steps in and the board snapped, sending Razham plummeting to the ground. Instantly, Lady Elizabeth reached for her quiver to withdraw an arrow. But before she could pull it free, Razham held up his hand to stop her.

He pressed his back against a wall, closed his eyes, and began a chant like the hum of a thousand bee wings as the burned creatures moved closer.

Lady Elizabeth watched in awe as Razham suddenly disappeared. Four of the creatures bent down to examine the broken board, sniffing at it like feral dogs.

Worried they would find Razham, Lady Elizabeth freed the arrow from her quiver, nocked it and fired, sending the arrow sailing through the air in a slow arc. It struck a wall across the street, catching the attention of the creatures.

They whirled around at the sound then raced toward the wall. As they bent down to examine the arrow, Razham reappeared and quickly began to climb the wall. When he was within reach, Elizabeth stretched out her hand and helped him to the roof.

Just as they moved away from the eave, they saw a figure standing on the roof across from them. Half his form was black and shadowy while the other half was nothing more than bones encircled by a black slime that slowly crept across the frame.

“Extraordinary!” the figure said.

Lady Elizabeth at once drew an arrow but the figure stopped her.

“You cannot harm me, but you will risk giving away your position.”

“You will sound the alarm, so I risk nothing,” Lady Elizabeth disagreed.

“No. You are mistaken,” the figure corrected. “Watching you hide from them is far too enjoyable.”

“So you believe we will fail, and you wish to see it happen?” Lady Elizabeth asked.

“I will watch with delight,” the figure laughed.

Glancing at Razham, he added, “You they will tear apart.”

“And you,” looking back at Lady Elizabeth, “I will spare. Having a woman with me who is not half burned will be very pleasant.”

“I would rather die,” Lady Elizabeth spat.

“As you wish,” the figure responded, “but know that your death will not thwart my purpose.”

When the figure suddenly disappeared in a cloud of smoke, Elizabeth felt a shudder run through her.

“You must not allow him to distract you,” Razham advised.

“I suffer neither confusion nor fear. His death is certain. My arrow will find its mark,” she boasted.

“No hope. No hope for Gonorap,” Gonorap moaned. “Nightmare creatures will kill Gonorap. Burned man will kill Gonorap.”

“Take this,” Lady Elizabeth said, pulling a small knife from her boot. “It will protect you.”

Gonorap reached out for the knife and gathered it to his chest, hugging it as a child would a doll.

With great compassion, Razham gently placed his hand on Gonorap for a moment then said,

“It is time, little one, to continue our journey.”

Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 3:51 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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