Tag Archives: fantasy

Guilt: Dragon Bait (Part 3) – Free Fantasy Story




Welcome back to Part 3 of Dragon Bait. If you missed Burning: Dragon Bait (Part 1) or Dragonflame: Dragon Bait (Part 2), make sure you check them out first!

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Varik lost her somewhere in the raging inferno of the monastery. An opportune group of unfortunate priests, their bodies still smoldering, provided cover. Varik dropped to his face in the grass and lay motionless, holding his breath. Light footsteps pattered past. When the dragon flew over in pursuit, Varik bolted in the opposite direction.


Outside the burning building, the cold night air prickled his skin. Varik clutched the tattered remains of his cloak about himself, and switched the heavy satchel from one shoulder to the other as he trudged up the steep mountain path. A patch of stars blinked out briefly as a great shadow flew past.


Nothing but darkness met his gaze as he chewed on a thumbnail. He couldn’t spot the dragon. Reflexively, he checked if his presence was still cloaked. The thief would search for him. The dragon would search for her. Fear gnawed at him, even as he gnawed on the nail. The tang of blood touched his tongue, and he snatched the ruined nail from his teeth.


Two days to Athelstone, and the protection of the Sirens and Furies. Thumb halfway to his mouth, he balled the hand into a fist, and forced it to his side.


When did everything go wrong? His job was to find, secure or retrieve rare and unusual items for the Sirens and Furies of Athelstone, and he did it well. This should have been just another job.


Except it had never been just another job.


Keeping the box out of Ishafal hands might assuage some of his guilt; some, but not all. If he’d been in Athelstone, maybe he could have stopped the theft, and all this would never have happened. Instead, his sister and her two daughters were dead, and why? Because he couldn’t stop treasure-hunting. 


The sun broke over the horizon as he found the cave. Eyelids heavy, he crawled into the blessed darkness. Water trickled somewhere in the gloom. The discordantly merry sound made him aware of his parched throat, and the satchel fell from his shoulder. It thudded when it struck the stone floor. A tiny spring bubbled near the rear wall, and he dropped to his knees, thrusting his cupped hands into the trickle of water.


Thirst quenched, Varik settled back on his heels, guilt and exhaustion warring against each other. Damned Ishafal, stealing what wasn’t theirs, playing with forces they couldn’t control. For that matter, damned demons, and their damned war. Damned dragons. Why him? Why couldn’t the dragons choose someone else to follow around, and why were they able to sense him and no one else? The Ishafal and Ridwan were the sole source of human magic, but he’d not inherited even a shred from his damned demon father. Was this his legacy from his demon blood, to be forever haunted by dragons? A poor cousin to the wizard’s power some halfblood men inherited.


The anger fizzled and died beneath bone deep weariness. With one hand, he scrubbed at his eyes. Dare he sleep?


I don’t have a choice.


He dragged the satchel back near the spring. Opening the drawstrings revealed a rectangular iron box, heavier than it appeared. Heavy as lead. He scanned its surface for signs of damage, and relaxed when he found none. As ordered by his Fury, he made no attempt to lift the lid.


Varik didn’t need the warning. A whole village a day’s ride from Athelstone had been wiped out. Contaminated water, his Fury said, from whatever lay hidden within the box. Accident or intentional; it didn’t matter. The villagers died. Vomiting, bleeding from open sores, from the nose and ears, fever and seizures. They died slow, but they died all the same. Not even magic saved them.


His sister lived in that village. His sister, and her two daughters, aged eight and five.


He clenched his jaw against the tears.


Varik carefully tucked the box back into the satchel and then lay down, offering a prayer up to any god that might be listening.


Please, don’t let the dragon find me.


* * *


Follow the link to read Ishafal: Dragon Bait (Part 4)!

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

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Monday Morsel: Fever – An excerpt from fantasy novel ‘In the Company of the Dead’



Welcome to the Monday Morsel feature, where I share short extracts from the first draft of my adult epic fantasy/fantasy romance, In the Company of the Dead.

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Horror mounted as she explained. The infection was virulent, and could be passed with a touch. It could not be cured. The sufferers would die in horrible agony, screaming and writhing, driven mad with pain. If allowed to progress to the end, they would attack anyone within reach, including each other, and even themselves if no one else was available. They would gnaw on their own flesh until they died of massive blood loss.

‘I have seen it, once. A long time ago now, when I was still in training. I knew, but no one would listen to a thirteen year old girl, even if she was destined to be Ahura’s Battle Priestess.’ She glanced away from him, a shadow in her eyes. ‘I do not wish to see it again.’


Thirteen, when she witnessed people chew themselves to death? What else had she seen? Barely twenty, and her eyes signalled she’d seen more, and worse, than he ever had. Certainly more than he’d seen at her age. A deep sorrow filled him – it wasn’t the life he’d wish for any daughter of his, if he had one.


‘How do we stop it, then?’

She pressed her lips together with grim resolve. ‘They must be killed.’


* * *


Thanks for dropping by! Don’t forget, this is a first draft, and as such won’t be perfect. If you like what you read, and are so inclined, show your support by leaving a comment, and In the Company of the Dead will be available in the future. I aim to have the first draft finished by the end of April. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out my novella, Confronting the Demon, or the free fiction I am posting during the A to Z Challenge, starting with Burning: Dragon Bait (Part 1).

If this is your first visit to Monday Morsels, find others in the series by clicking on the ‘Monday morsel’ tag, or go to the first installment.


More about In the Company of the Dead:


Lyram already crossed a prince, and now he finds himself on the brink of crossing a god.

Son of a duke and second in line for the throne, Lyram is exiled to a lonely castle after assaulting the crown prince. When a hostile army arrives to besiege the castle, he believes the prince wants him removed – permanently.

As though answering their prayers, Ellaeva, the Battle Priestess of the death goddess, arrives unexpectedly. But she has not come to break the siege. Instead, she is in pursuit of a necromancer of the evil god of decay. When misfortune after misfortune befalls the beleaguered defenders, Lyram realises the necromancer is hidden within the walls, sabotaging the very defence.

Against the backdrop of clashing gods, Lyram must fight to save himself from the political machinations of his prince, and the dread plans of a necromancer. But as the siege lengthens, he realises the greatest threat may come from another quarter — a woman sworn body and soul to a god tempts him to pay a terrible price.
 
This is an A to Z Blogging Challenge post. For more information about the challenge, check it out at A to Z Blogging. If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Dragonflame: Dragon Bait (Part 2) – Free Fantasy Fiction



Welcome back for Part 2 of free short story Dragon Bait – an A to Z Challenge post. If you missed it, catch up on Burning: Dragon Bait (Part 1) first!


* * *

Who stabbed him? The thought hit him hard. Perhaps the priest injured himself fleeing the fire. Or, perhaps not… Varik’s eyes scoured the night as he hurried on, skipping over every possible hiding spot, double and triple checking.

A dragon was akin to a force of nature; though it might not have directly attacked people to reach an Ishafal, dragonflame burned fiercely and would destroy anyone who didn’t flee the spreading inferno fast enough.

By contrast, an Ishafal was cold and calculating, and the stabbed priest reminded him they were in some ways more dangerous than a dragon. The empty sheath seemed heavy on his hip, a reminder of his vulnerability. He passed the badly burned corpse of a second priest, but saw no one alive among the spreading flames.

Varik’s fingers ran over fluted stone as he felt his way along a shadowed colonnade and down a wide stairway. The raging dragonfire cast his shadow into a hellish parody before him.

A thin line of fire ran down the balustrade. Deceptively beautiful, the flames devoured everything they touched. Dragonfire would creep into each nook and cranny in the monastery until the last stone burned to nothing.

Varik snatched his hand away. Even the slightest contact, the smallest spark, spelled death. The spreading waterfall of flames spilled fresh light into the garden. Within moments, a sheet of red fire engulfed the wall, dancing in eerie silence. The stone melted in its shroud. The monastery’s inhabitants wailed in the distance. The dragon remained quiet. Choking ash smothered the usual heady scent of blooms. 

A shadow stirred in the red light below, hunched over as it darted across the garden. Varik froze. A tall, lithe woman emerged from the trees, sweeping through the darkness. The shape of her back appeared distorted and deformed. Night blurred the details, but Varik recognized the figure. He held his breath; let it out slow.

Only one wall remained free of flame, and he hugged the stone surface as he eased back up the stairs, his foot feeling out each riser. He dared not take his eyes from the spectre below. Rage boiled his blood, even as fear froze his marrow. He dropped one hand to the dagger; to the empty sheath. His mouth dried, and he ran his tongue around, moistening it. For a moment, he experienced the satisfaction of envisioning the knife slicing across the woman’s neck.

But dragonfire had consumed the knife. The vision faded, leaving only the memory of the still bodies of two little girls, limbs covered in open, running sores, and hollow guilt in the pit of his stomach. Throat choked with old grief, he found the top step. If he’d been there, instead of off who knew where chasing thrills, maybe it wouldn’t be that way.

A shadow fell across him, and Varik glanced up. The huge bulk of the dragon swept overhead, wings beating down, and a gust of wind buffeted Varik away from the flames and into a wall. He clung to it hard, willing himself to become just another shadow in the night.

It didn’t see me; it didn’t see me. 

The last gust cooled the sweat on his face. No reason the dragon should see him; he wasn’t its prey. But if he slipped once, allowed his protections to fall, then the dragon would sense him. Like last night, when he slept, and curiosity must have brought the dragon searching. Instead of the source of the siren song in its head, instead of Varik, the dragon found the Ishafal on his trail.

 The dragon trumpeted. Varik started, banging his head against the wall. He ignored the flash of pain in his skull. The woman bolted from cover. A fresh sea of fire spilled hot and boiling across the greenery, and trees exploded into pillars of flame. The Ishafal veered towards the stairs.

Varik ran.


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Follow the link to read Guilt: Dragon Bait (Part 3).

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it. 
Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 
Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!


Convention: Ciara Ballintyne at Supanova Sydney



I’ll be at the Supanova pop culture expo in Sydney, Australia! The convention runs from June 13 – 15, and I’ll be exhibiting with Dionne Lister, author of young adult fantasy novels, Shadows of the Realm and A Time of Darkness. 

If you love fantasy and would like to meet us, come on down. You can pick up a signed copy my adult high fantasy novella, Confronting the Demon, and there’ll be some freebies you can take home with you.

If you buy Confronting the Demonfrom Supanova, Sydney, you’ll get an exclusive sneak peak at the sequel, Stalking the Demon. Visitors to our booth also have the opportunity to pick up another piece of never-before-seen free fiction.In the meantime, you can also read the free fiction I’m posting as part of the A to Z Challenge, starting with Burning – Part 1 of Dragon Bait, posted yesterday.
Feel free to drop by just to talk to us about our upcoming uber-secret Three Dragon Ladies project, or our fabulous artist Lydia Kurnia. Lydia is a Sydney artist whose talent will be showcased in the 3 Dragon Ladies artwork on display in our booth, and also the book trailer for Confronting the Demon, which you can watch when you stop to chat with us.

We look forward to seeing you there! Tickets go on sale in May. 


This is an A to Z Challenge post. 


If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

 Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Burning – Dragon Bait (Part 1) – Free Fantasy Fiction


 Dragon Bait is the first of two pieces of short fiction I am featuring during this A to Z Blogging Challenge. Enjoy!

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Smoke. The scent jolted Varik out of his doze. He stared blind into the darkness, his body sweltering in the unexpected heat. A red glow lit the doorframe.

His bare feet thumped down onto a stone floor as he rolled out of the hard bed and slammed his mental protections up. Fire. The monastery burned. Sweat trickled down the muscles of his stomach, to the waistband of his breeches, and he fumbled in the dark for his satchel. The acrid stench of smoke thickened.

With a hastily tied bundle thrust beneath one arm, he heaved the pack onto his shoulder, grunting at the effort. One strap snagged on the purple ridge running the length of his pale forearm for a moment before he shook it free. A thin line of fire ran up the doorframe without sound.

Dragonfire.

The beautiful red flame spread inexorably across the wood, banishing the darkness. Varik seized the handle and threw the door open. The hot metal seared his palm with white agony. The scent of burning flesh filled the small room, and he bit the inside of his cheek to stop from crying out.

As the heat hammered at him, he lurched through the door and into a colonnade melting in the inferno. He took care to keep well clear of the flames. In the distance, sandals clapped on flagstones, and unseen priests shouted. Firelight flickered eerily around him; smoke choked his throat. Head down, holding tight to the pack, he burst free of the colonnade and into the grassed area beyond.

Varik dropped his bundle and leaned against an ornamental pylon, coughing. His burned palm throbbed. The taste of blood filled his mouth from the bitten cheek.

Somewhere in the night flew a dragon, intent on destroying the thief; somewhere in the monastery lurked the thief, intent on retrieving the satchel.

His fault, for risking a few hours of precious sleep. On the other hand, if he hadn’t, the thief might have come upon him unprepared. His gratitude for being alive left him guilt-ridden, as though he didn’t have more than his fair share already.

But he wasn’t away free yet, and his gaze scoured the flame-ridden darkness for any sign of his hunter. Gooseflesh prickled the skin of his chest.

Nothing; not even a hint the Ishafal thief lingered near.

His sword belt rattled to the ground as he unwound his cloak from the bundle of rescued possessions. Strips torn from the ragged cloak hem served as a bandage for the burn on his hand, and he pulled a shirt over his short-cropped dark hair, fastening the sleeves tight at the wrist to hide the ridges on his forearms.

Dragonfire ran up the stone pylon next to him. The odd, sharp scent of melting stone filled his nostrils, and sweat poured down his face. Red, baleful, sparks floated free like fireflies in the night. Varik heaved the satchel from the ground moments before a spark landed. So much condensed death in one bag; so much power.

With his hand reaching to pick up the sword-belt, he stared. His stomach dropped.

The dagger sheath lay empty. 
‘Dragon’s blood!’ Varik hurled the cloak away.

His sole defense against the Ishafal, the dagger’s magic had been entrusted to him by his Fury handler when she failed to talk him out of accepting this mission. Foolhardy, she called it, and him too grief-stricken, too guilt-ridden, to be working in the field. Though a man ignored the daughter of a demon at his peril, Varik risked it. Some things you have to do yourself. 

He turned back towards his room, but the entire colonnade slumped in the heat, stone melting and running like molten metal. The blaze consumed the door.

He clenched his jaw. Done was done. While the thief hunted him through the monastery, he could afford no wasted time. At the thought, his gaze searched the shadows again. She had to be here; she had to be the reason the dragon attacked. Whether dragons were unthinking animals, or sentient creatures, it was certain they’d go to the ends of the earth to burn an Ishafal to cinders.

She must be here, but where? Was she close? He buckled the belt on, taking no comfort in the weight of the sword, and retrieved his cloak before moving on.

A priest leaned on the next pylon up, breathing hoarsely in the ash-laden air. Blood pooled at his feet. The charitable thing to do would be to help the man, but he didn’t dare. Though the monastery couldn’t survive, some of its inhabitants would live if he kept moving, drawing the thief, and the dragon, onwards. His gaze dropped to the spreading pool of blood, and back up to pleading eyes riddled with pain.

‘I’m sorry.’ The whispered words probably didn’t carry to the dying man, and he tried to make his voice louder. ‘I’m sorry.’

Sickening guilt flooded him, and he broke eye contact with a sharp turn of his head. Most likely the man couldn’t be saved, and the burden of his death rested on Varik’s shoulders.

His footsteps dragged as he moved off through the flame-lit darkness, leaving the dying priest in his wake.


* * * 

Follow the link to read Dragonflame: Dragon Bait (Part 2)
**AUTHOR’S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**
If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletterCheck out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!