Originally featured on Somebody Has To Say It for the A – Z Blogging Challenge, here is Part 2 of Dark Decisions for those who missed it the first time. If you haven’t already read Part 1 (or Parts 1 and 2 on Somebody Has To Say It) you can find it here

I’m entered in the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition for both Flight of the Dragon and Somebody Has To Say It. Don’t forget to stop by and vote for me here

Enjoy the conclusion to this story.
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Two figures emerged, silhouetted against the nightmarish backdrop. They were alone, their prisoner already delivered. What was done with them? The guards turned aside before reaching Drada and Gan, swallowed by the wall as they stepped through a doorway out of sight. The echo of boots striking stairs floated into the cavern. Drada’s breath whooshed from him. Behind, Gan prodded him forward. 

Sweat covered Drada’s palms. The heat of the cavern smothered him, but it wasn’t the reason he perspired. His slid slippery fingers into the pouch and fingered the cold, chain links. Can I do this?

The red glow intensified and Drada stepped past a wall and into a smaller cavern bordering the edge of the legendary magma lake. He slammed to a halt so hard Gan stumbled into his back, pushing him forward two more steps towards the figure beside the lake. 

The man turned, his face a landscape of shadows and hellish red light leeching his features of all other colour. ‘Father?’

Stunned surprise reverberated through his voice, but Drada barely noticed, his eyes locked to the crude, wooden bench behind Phaeton. A man lay there, strapped facedown to expose the bare flesh of his back. Thick, black lines marked out a space near his kidneys. A low groan issued from the shadowy prisoner. 

Drada dragged his eyes away from the shackled prisoner to his son’s shadowed face. ‘Phaeton?’ He heard the horror in his own voice; so did his son. Even in the red glow, he saw his son’s face harden.

‘You can’t understand, but I’m saving people. Did you know it’s possible to transfer one person’s organs to others? This man’s kidneys will save two other men, with the help of my sorcery. Two, productive lives, at the expense of what? One murderer?’

Drada shook his head. His knees tried to buckle; instead he forced himself forward a few steps. His fingers clenched around the cold chain. ‘What would your mother say?’

Phaeton stiffened. His eyes flickered over Drada’s shoulder. ‘I should have known it was you, Gan. Have you brought my father to kill me?’

Drada silenced Gan with one lifted finger. The heat of the magma lake beat at his exposed face and arms. ‘It nearly killed your mother when she heard the charges brought against you. What do you think it would do if I were to tell her I’d killed you?’ With exaggerated care, he lifted his sword free of his scabbard and dropped it. The clang of metal striking stone reverberated painfully off the cavern walls. Phaeton’s mouth dropped open, hastily closed. 

‘No?’ Phaeton sneered, a poor attempt to cover his surprise. ‘And yet violence was ever your first resort.’

Drada spread his arms wide, the fine gold of the chain concealed in his hand. The links were so tiny the chain formed a ball barely large enough to fill his palm. ‘Won’t you reconsider? Mere mathematics is not enough to justify killing a man.’ He shuffled a few steps closer. Just a few more moments, a few more steps.
 
There was no hesitation in Phaeton. His chin lifted; arrogant, insolent. ‘You think I haven’t given this due consideration?’ He pointed a long finger. ‘That’s far enough, father. Even without your sword, I don’t trust you.’

‘Your mother-‘

‘I don’t want to hear about my mother!’ The scream bounced off the stone of the cavern. Power sparked dangerously around Phaeton’s clenched fists.

Sweat covered Drada’s palms; the fine chain slipped. Am I close enough? He chanced another step. A blast of red light blew a chunk out of a stalactite to his left. He threw himself aside, Phaeton’s scream of rage echoing in his ears. His breath whooshed out of him as he hit the ground. The chain, so fine it was almost invisible, slithered across the stone floor and disappeared into the shadows. Drada skittered after it, sliding on his belly, pushing with his booted feet. Another blast of red light sent chunks of stone and dust raining down on his head. Behind him, Gan called hoarsely. More red light flashed in the sergeant’s direction.  

Drada coughed, choking on the fine dust. His hands fumbled along the stone floor, feeling for what his eyes couldn’t see in the red shadows. Dust ruined his sense of touch and the chain so fine it was indistinguishable among the ruins of stone. Another explosion of red light elicited a glint of gold before stone fragments showered down on him. A piece of shrapnel burrowed its way into his flesh. White agony exploded in his shoulder. Choking back a cry of pain, he lunged for the stray gleam of gold. Behind, the stone floor exploded.  

His hand closed on a fistful of dust and stone fragments. Lifting the fist, he saw the links of the chain trail from his grip like stardust. He seized it with the other hand, shaking out its near invisible length. More stone exploded as he rolled onto his back. 

‘Stay still, damn you!’ Phaeton stood with his fists raised. They glowed with burning, red light so bright it seared Drada’s eyes. He lurched to one knee. Swinging the chain, he squinted into the red inferno and tossed the chain at the figure outlined against the flaming sorcery. 

The near-invisible chain ignited with golden light. It carved its way through the malevolent, red glow, flying with the weight of a much heavier chain. It bounced off Phaeton’s shoulder, opening a line of gold fire in his flesh. Phaeton screamed. The sorcerous light at his fists flickered and died. Drada hauled in the length of chain, thick fingers fumbling with the fine gold. Red energy exploded into the stalactite beside his head. A flying stone fragment opened a line of fire on his cheek. The chain’s weight feather-light in his left hand, he flung it again. 

The length of the chain, aflame with gold light, snaked out. It flew true, wrapping around Phaeton before he could fire another bolt of energy. 

The red light winked out. The sorcerer’s howl reverberated off the stone. On his knees, blood dripping down his face, Drada dropped his head and wept. 

Phaeton spun, nearly losing his balance with his arms pinned to his sides. The golden fire dimmed to a dull glow, but it stood out like blazing fire in the darkness of the cavern. Before he’d taken three steps, Gan barrelled out of the darkness and flung himself on Phaeton. The two men crashed to the ground, rolling in a tangle of limbs. Through it all, the impossibly fragile length of chain glowed steadily gold, whole and unbroken. 

Gan hauled the sorcerer to his feet. ‘You won’t be going anywhere for a long time, pup.’ He shook Phaeton for emphasis. ‘You broke your mother’s heart. And your father…’

Drada climbed to his feet with slow, heavy steps. A hole opened in his heart where once there’d been a son. 

Phaeton lunged forward in Gan’s grip. ‘To hell with you, and mother! You should have just killed me.’ Vitriol dripped from every word. 

‘Killing you would have been easier for both of us, but you don’t deserve easy.’ Drada swallowed hard. ‘Phaeton, son of Drada, you are under arrest for crimes against the people, unspeakable acts of sorcery and murder most vile. You will go from here to face trial by your sorcerous peers. It will be for them to decide if you will live and, if you do, if you will ever be permitted to wield sorcery again.’

The words fell hard and heavy into the silence, like crypt doors slamming. It lasted a moment only, before Phaeton screamed and threw himself against Gan’s rock-like grip. 

Drada turned his back. It was done. Tomorrow had come. The day after tomorrow would be brighter. 



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Author’s Note: Due to the time constraints of the A to Z Challenge, this piece of fiction has not undergone my usual rigorous editing process and is essentially a first draft.