Tag Archives: free story

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!

* * *



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.


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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.

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Monday Morsel: Challenge – 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.

* * *

Aharris glanced at the soldiers. ‘They’re afraid. Afraid of you, of your power. Of death. Every wise soldier fears death, because he knows she is coming for her. He doesn’t wish to hasten that day.’
She sniffed. He didn’t fear her, except when he remembered he should. She’d reminded him now, though – tension thrummed in every line of his body, and the anger poured off him in waves. ‘They are fools.’
‘Is it foolish to fear the unknown? If it engenders caution, one could argue it is wisdom.’
Philosophy. She was in no mood for it. She wanted to shout at him: But I am so lonely! More so, since they’d argued, and anger ignited at the thought. Instead, she stilled her features, hoping the bleak heartache didn’t show in her eyes. What I feel isn’t important, so long as the goddess is served. And somewhere further in the depths of her mind, a tiny voice protested. But why me?
‘Spar with me,’ she said, unable to temper the aggression in the sudden challenge.

* * *

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.

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.


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!


Monday Morsel: The Left Hand of Death – An Excerpt from 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.

* * *

Distantly through the thick wood and stone came the roar of voices. The pungent smell of burning pitch followed hard on its heels. They had fired the moat. The voices of men screaming in pain penetrated the stone more than he liked.
And then the sound he’d been dreading.
Thud.
The men held their breaths. Lyram drew his sword. At his shoulder, a grim spectre of death; Ellaeva, lifting her own blade in readiness, awaiting the moment the ram might break through the gate. It would be easy, with the gates only blockaded by what debris could be quickly scrounged.
Thud.
Ellaeva’s face settled into that grim expectancy he’d begun to call her ‘work look’. This was the face of a woman who had earned the name Left Hand of Death.

* * *

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.

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.

 
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!

Monday Morsel: Attacked Among Friends – An Excerpt from 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. By special request of Chris Mentzer, we have a longer excerpt today. I’ll also be featuring some free fiction in April as part of the A – Z Blogging Challenge.

* * *

Out of the blinding brilliance, something struck him hard, and a great weight knocked him to the ground, forcing the breath from his body. What? Who? He blinked tears from his eyes, and scrabbled for his sword hilt while struggling for breath. Whatever had hit him still pinned him to the ground. Squinting at the shape resolved it into the outline of a man in time to see a fist aimed at his head.
Lyram tried to throw himself backwards, but the man’s weight held him down. The fist missed, and he struck his head on the cobbles. His right hand was trapped under him, pins and needles prickling his flesh. He curled his left arm around awkwardly, reaching for his knife.
The assailant aimed another blow at his head, and Lyram bucked his hips, throwing the man off balance. The shift in the man’s weight allowed him grab his dagger, and he fumbled the weapon from its sheath. It slipped free of his two-fingered grip. The clatter of the blade on the cobbles sounded as mournful as the cry of a wild goose.
Eye to eye with his attacker, he fumbled instead for the man’s belt, feeling along its length for his dagger. A guard; not one of his. A castle guard. A curious blankness suffused the man’s features, and almost belatedly he swung another fist at Lyram. Their proximity made the blow awkward, and Lyram jerked his ahead aside. The man’s breath stank. Lyram found the hilt of the man’s knife.
Yanking it free, he thrust upwards. The man spasmed, and then his hands closed on Lyram’s throat. With his air choked off, Lyram stabbed again, and again, trying to find some vital organ. The choking grip tightened. He fought for air. Dizziness washed over him as his straining lungs burned to breathe. Black spots danced in his vision. He stabbed again, but the blow lacked strength. The next time, the blade tumbled from his fingers.
A glittering blade sliced through his shrinking vision. Blood gushed across his face, almost scalding in the cool spring morning. The blow hurled the assailant from him, and Lyram sucked in a huge breath of air.
Ellaeva appeared, blood dripping from the silver length of her blade. She extended one pale hand. Her left-hand. He fought the urge to laugh hysterically, recognising the effects of not enough air. Ciotach an Bhais. The left hand of death indeed.
She hauled him to his feet with more strength than her frame should hold, and he stood swaying on his feet. The attacker lay in a pool of his own blood, his eyes open and staring in death. The fresh reek said the corpse had opened its bowels. The man possessed unfamiliar features, and Lyram thought he was acquainted with every guard by now, up to and including their first names.
The castellan raced across the courtyard, and everyone within eyeshot had stopped to stare.
‘Ahura take me, ‘tis Adlin.’ Sir Janun made the sign of the goddess, brow, lips and breast, for the mind, the breath, and the heart, which all ceased in death. ‘But why?’
Releasing Ellaeva’s hand, Lyram crouched to examine the corpse. The stink he had taken for bad breath lingered. It was sweet, like rotting flesh. In addition, the man was unshaven. Even the most slovenly sergeant would take a soldier to task for looking like this. Unless… He opened the man’s shirt – no mail, another telltale – and found bandages wound around his midsection, stained with blood. The very edges of the stain had a sickly green tinge to them. Not only blood, then. This man had been bound for Ahura’s arms even before Ellaeva cut him down. Had the castellan said Adlin? Lyram had met the man a handful of times, he was sure, but no matter how he peered at the dead man’s features, he couldn’t catch but a glimpse of a resemblance. He’d been the man badly wounded by flying fragments of stone from the catapult bombardment, hadn’t he?
Ellaeva squatted comfortably beside him, her gaze flickering across the corpse. He imagined she saw every detail there was to see in that glance. She stretched one hand out to touch the man’s flesh, and snatched it away as though burned, her breath hissing through her teeth.
‘Rahmyrrin,’ she said, too soft for the watching circle of onlookers to hear.
At that moment, a wet cloth dropped over Lyram’s shoulder, and he looked up into Everard’s wide eyes.

* * *

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 March. If you’d like to sample more of my writing, check out my novella Confronting the Demon.

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.



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!

Dark Decisions – Part 2 (Fiction)

Dark Decisions

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.
~

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. 



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 subscribe to my newsletter.
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!

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.