Aug 22, 2014

Free Fiction Friday – The Price of Love – Part 4



The Price Of Love – Part 4


Sounds from inside the cave interrupted my thoughts. A new wave of anxiety washed over me. Chenoth was no longer a spirit and would obviously be the one to carry me back.

I didn’t—couldn’t—blame him for taking Barh, but it didn’t hurt any less. He’d ripped my heart from my chest and left me alone and numb. Even with my promise to Barh, I didn’t know how I could ride Chenoth back to where our army waited.

When I got the courage to look, I saw a blue dragon walking slowly toward me. Although smaller than Chenoth, the new dragon barely fit inside the tunnel. I should have been seized with fear, but I felt nothing. Perhaps it was the knowledge that Chenoth sent the creature that kept me calm. Or maybe I secretly welcomed death and didn’t care. Whatever the reason, I met the dragon’s gaze without distress.

I pressed myself against the wall, willing the rock to swallow me so he—and somehow I knew it was a he—could pass. Instead of continuing toward the entrance, the dragon stopped just before me and lowered his head. Not an invitation to mount, but a demand.

Though I knew what I needed to do, I didn’t want to move, not yet. I had to force myself to step closer. Barely aware of my surroundings, I used the ridges on the dragon’s side to climb onto his back. There were no spikes or protruding scales in the small area where the neck merged with the back. Only later did I wonder if the gods created this space for me to sit.

“Hold on.” The voice sounded male, though I had no point of reference to distinguish the sex of a dragon.

I grasped a pair of bony spikes and squeezed my legs tight around his neck. Slowly my new companion rose. He wiggled just enough for me to test my grip.

Without another word, the dragon burst into a full sprint straight for the mouth of the cave. When he reached the lip, I could hear his talons dig into the rock as he thrust us skyward. Once clear of the mountain, his enormous wings snapped outward, catching the wind to keep us aloft.

The times I’d flown with Barh did nothing to prepare me for the sensation of riding a dragon. Long, powerful beats quickly took us north even as the wind tried to tear me from my seat.

Despite the sensation, I searched for Chenoth and the other Elementals. Seeing nothing but empty sky, I felt betrayed. Barh sacrificed everything for one dragon’s aid? I expected an army led by Chenoth to fly out of the mountain to overwhelm the Degari. Meaning no insult to my companion, but Barh’s power as a Magi was already worthy of legends. No one dragon could replace him.

Anger replaced my grief as we neared the edge of land. Resigned to the travesty Chenoth perpetuated, I felt ashamed when the top of the mountain exploded before my eyes.

Struggling against the wind, I kept my focus on the mountain. A continuous stream of white— not clouds or ash but a river of solid white—shot from the peak. Within seconds the solid mass slowly revealed itself as much more.

Leading the way, Chenoth cut through the air with his massive wings. Even at this distance I could tell he was even bigger than when I saw him in the cave. Behind him, an army of… I didn’t know what they were. Unlike anything I had seen before, they were still the most beautiful sight I could imagine. They were the salvation of the world.

Looking closer, I saw shapes I recognized. Horses, cows, wolves, bears, all many times larger than the animals they resembled. There were also giant felines, striped horses, and creatures with long necks, massive arms, or sharp horns. And then were those I couldn’t even name. Each was pure white with small, delicate wings that impossibly kept them aloft.

Dwarfed by Chenoth, the aerial army continued to grow until it covered the sky for miles. Chenoth’s angry roar filled the air triumphantly, daring someone, anyone, to defy him. His growing army echoed his challenge. My ride, however, did not join the call as he carried me away.

Focused on Chenoth and his army, I was surprised when I faced forward and found us slowly angling toward the army of my people. At first no one noticed our approach. Chenoth and his legions commanded everyone’s attention. Then one, followed by others pointed toward us as we drew closer.

Show yourself to ease their fear.” The dragon’s voice reminded me of Barh’s words. I needed to lead.

Standing as best as I could, I waived my arms and shouted. “To arms! To arms! Chenoth has answered our call.”

I shouted it over and over, each time struggling not to choke. Chenoth hadn’t answered our call; Barh bought the help with his life.

Despair changed to hope, then to joy, as soldiers from three ancestral enemies waved their weapons and cheered as one people at their unexpected salvation. We swept over the rejuvenated force, landing just in front of the assembled army.

My ride slowly turned around and we faced the troops. Men and women ran toward us, caught up in the euphoria of the moment. I stood up feeling a profound sense of loss that my beloved was not among their number. Drawing my sword, I did what was expected of me; I tried to instill hope in their hearts.

Address them.”

Waiting for the soldiers to stop, I observed the three kings and their retinues press forward. I saw shock in the faces of more than a few.

Before I could speak someone called out, “Where is the Magi Barh?”

The question echoed throughout the crowd. A knife through my heart could not have hurt more than hearing some say my beloved’s name. Barh was gone, how could they ask me to say out loud what I had yet to reconcile in my heart?

“The Magi did what was expected of him.” Tears forced themselves to corners of my eyes against my will. I pointed skyward hoping no one would saw my weakness. “Behold! Chenoth answered the call of the Magi. Salvation is at hand.”

The last few words came out cracked and broken. Even saying his title was too painful.

“You must take the fight to your enemy.” The dragon told them. “Chenoth cannot fight this battle alone. When you take to the field, he will strengthen your arm and shield your body.

Another cheer erupted before the soldiers surged forward, ready to do the impossible. Chenoth had come. They were invincible.

As the dragon promised, the moment our soldiers met the Degari, Chenoth and his followers struck. Some swooped in to shield the soldiers, while Chenoth led the others in destroying the black demons. Everywhere I looked I saw Barh’s hand, protecting the people he loved enough that he died for them.

Others told me I rode the blue dragon as it flew across the width of the enemy, erupting white-hot flames as he passed. I have no memory of the fight other than it was brief.

Afterwards we learned the white avatars fanned out across the globe, weeding out any Degari who sought to hide. The war ended in the blink of an eye. It had been so easy once Chenoth and his army joined the fight. All Chenothequired was for one man to give all that he had and all that he ever would and for another to live with a broken heart.

{Epilogue next week.}


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  1. This is my favorite chapter so far, because of you ramping up the fantasy level to the degree of “sheer awesomeness”. Beautifully written and heartwrenching!

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