Ciara Ballintyne was born in 1981 in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, one masochistic cat, and one cat with a god complex. She holds degrees in law and accounting, and has been a practising financial services lawyer since 2004. She is both an idealist and a cynic. She started reading epic fantasy at the age of nine, when she kidnapped Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings from her father. Another two years passed before she began her first attempts at the craft of writing. Confronting the Demon is her debut book. She enjoys horse-riding, and speculation about taking over the world. If she could choose to be anything it would be a dragon, but instead she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House. M.D. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CiaraBallintyne Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CiaraBallintyne Website: http://www.ciaraballintyne.com Flight of the Dragon is a for lovers of fantasy fiction, with an emphasis on high/epic fantasy.
Confronting the Demon
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.
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.
* * *
Don't forget to check back for Part 2 on April 4!
**AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fiction piece is part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and has not been to an editor.**
1 comment (click to read and post)
You don't have to sign up to Koobug - you can read all of the content on the site. However, if you'd like to comment or recommend books and posts, you'll need an account.
It's completely free to use, whether you are an author or reader.
All we need from you is your email address, which we'll use to send you an access link. You can then click on the link and choose your password and profile picture.
We will not disclose your email address to anyone else, or use it to send you spam.
Enter your email address into the box, and a password if you have one. If this is your first time here, or you can't remember your password, leave the box blank; we'll email you a temporary key.