Jump to content
  • Author
  • 10,815 Words
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Spirit of Fire - 18. Strength Of Will

The second half of chapter 17 -- I suppose I should call this 18, shouldn't I?

"Torsten? Torsten! Are you okay?" Lucy was shaking my arm, and I blinked, becoming properly aware of where we are again. "Did ... you do it? You went really pale there for a second."

"Yeah." I looked down at myself, double-checking to see if there was any outward change after what I'd just experienced in the psychic link, but there wasn't. "I did it. I'm ready now -- as ready as I'll ever be, I guess -- but ... they're breaking her. She made me leave because ... she's ... she's going to ... "

"Oh." Lucy blinked, frowning. "Shit. That's ... really bad."

I know.

"I don't know how long it will take. Probably only a few minutes, if that." I dropped the scale fragments back into the bag and pocketed it. Standing, I was for some reason motivated to go to the window, a weird pull that told me to wait there. Lucy followed me across the room, seeming fixated on my actions, probably worried I was about to pass out or attempt something outlandish. "I wish there was a way out. There has to be something. You were right, of course she knew I was going to get out of here. I just can't understand how."

The little rectangle above wasn't even big enough to fit my torso through, and it was divided into quarters anyhow, iron cross bars making exit impossible.

No escaping this way.

Where, then? How?

What am I doing here?

"Answers. I want some damn answers. I need to-"

­With no warning, the moment arrived.

Outside, in the middle distance, no more than a couple of hundred feet away, there was an explosion of ... something.



The gift within the seeress, but ... no longer within her.

Nobody else could hear it.

Nobody else could see it.

It was the sound of shattering ice, the feeling of an avalanche of cold and mist descending a mountain, cut free from its tethers and driven out, released from the form to which it was bound for so long.

They've done it.

"Triskeleth is dead." My voice was thick, and I shivered, staring through the bars at the sky, the early evening beginning to set in, the sun fading. "They got what they wanted."

Then came a shape, fluttering down to the window.

A butterfly, with wings of intermixed blue, light and dark.

It danced through the air, past the bars, and I raised a hand as it came closer, landing on my outstretched fingertip.

Triskeleth, I'm sorry.

I wanted to help you too.

In a swirl, the butterfly transmuted to energy, and with a zap like an electrical shock, the magical spark embedded into my finger, and I felt it flow rapidly down my arm, branching and splitting as it expanded to fill my body.

"Wow!" Lucy whispered. "Was ... that it? Did it just happen?!"

The tingle of power entered my head last, and my eyeballs were prickling, my brain buzzing.

I blinked once, trying to adjust to the feeling.


It stopped.

What was THAT? Did it do something to my eyes?

I looked down at myself for what felt like the hundredth time, wondering if this one would be any different. The same as ever, except-

Wait. Is that- ... ?

My right hand.

Sebby's ring.

Inside it, filling it, the diamond band was suffused with a sparkling static. Constantly fluctuating, it was a bubbling energy field.

It's ... magic.

She said true magic lives in blood, breath, and ... scale.

More than that, I could comprehend -- in a way that seemed like nonsense to my human brain, but somehow worked -- the layers of magical enchantment. There was the subtle invisibility function that Sebby had placed on the ring, to enable it to disappear in the way he had described to me, but, there was a second enchantment, a hidden one.


I can SEE their magic.

The door to the cell clicked, a key in the lock on the other side as somebody began to open it.

"Torsten. They're here. They're gonna kill us. I know it." Her voice was unsteady, her eyes on the door. She was terrified.

So was I.

"Hey. I know it's scary." I told her, trying not to sound as frightened as I felt. "Your turn to trust me. Stay behind me, okay?"

I stepped into the middle of our cell and touched the ring, sliding on the surface in a pattern that my new eyesight told me would trigger the second enchantment.

It activated.

From the ring, white light projected an inch above the back of my hand, then spreading parallel, following the line of my arm. It went both directions, toward my elbow and past my fingers. Stopping about four inches up my forearm, the light curved around the sides, connecting to itself to form a bracer, a protective enclosure that didn't touch the skin. In the other direction, it was width of my wrist until it extended past the end of my hand, going another four inches and narrowing to a point.

It looked like a projection of light, but it was substantial, a couple of millimetres thick, solid, glowing a silvery-white, with shifting lines of plasma moving inside it. Like the energy sword from Halo, or a piece of futuristic Protoss psionic tech.

I knew what this was, my understanding somehow instinctive.

A weapon of crystallised lightning.

Sebby's gift.

There was a heavy clunk, a bolt drawing back and the door burst open, slamming against the wall.

Two Scourge in front, three more behind, crowding the entrance. All had knives in hand, a standard piece of minion equipment for the Conclave. My pulse was pounding, breath coming fast.

"Our lord has ordered your termination." The lead figure spoke from the doorway, quick and restless. He glanced to the new acquisition, then back to my face. Completely unfazed, he smiled a gruesome ugly smile, full of hungry cruelty. "A forbidden toy? No concern. We'll present it to him after we cut out your entrails."

They began to advance, two at a time in the narrow space.

My hands closed into fists.

At that moment, another part of the seer's power kicked in.

As they moved, I could see a ghosting blue silhouette ahead of where each Scourge was. Moving where they were about to move, acting as they were about to act.

It was precognition.

The shape of the future in motion.

Wide-eyed, I dodged to the left, the frenzied vertical slash of the first Scourge slicing past my right shoulder. Slamming the bracer into the man's face while he was off balance, there was the sizzle of cooking flesh from the contact. He screamed, falling to the side in agony, and I was jerking my other shoulder back just in time, the next knife tip nicking my shirt before I brought my right arm around in a tight arc and plunged the blade into the second Scourge's neck.

It cut right through flesh and muscle like it was nothing. The slash exited out the front, ripping through his throat, a searing hiss as it was instantly cauterised.

Holy shit.

There wasn't time to think, and I could focus on nothing else but the moment; the adrenaline that coursed through me, the speed of it all, and the advantage of my precognitive knowledge. The third was already on me, stepping over the bodies of his fallen comrades, a wide horizontal carve aimed high at my throat. A duck under, then a sweeping upward slash that sheared through his clothes, opening his torso from belly to collar.

I can do this.

My confidence building. I shoved the gutted third Scourge away, twisting again to block the incoming attack from the fourth. It hit the bracer, the metal sparking uselessly against it, and I whipped the energy blade in a quick circle, the knife pushed away with a crackling shiing, before jamming the blade end deep into his stomach.

Still impaled, I pushed him, forcing him to collide with the fifth Scourge, the man behind losing balance and falling backward. Retracting the blade, the fourth dropped to the floor and I leaped over him, through the doorway, to the last one. He was scrambling to stand, but I was on him, a slash to the wrist, his voice rising in a harrowed shout of pain, the knife disarmed and clattering to the floor.

"Aggh! No! No no NO!" Crying, caught somewhere between terror, regret, and the overriding hate of the Conclave's enslavement, he tried to beg. "Leave me! SPARE ME! Stop!"

"You chose this! You wanted to be here!" I grabbed him by his shirt front. "I didn't! You're MAKING me do it!"

"No! Please! I-"

The energy blade sank into his skull, the end mercifully quick.

I stood, pulling it back, his body thudding onto the stone. My arm was shaking, and I was so tense I could hardly breathe properly.

So distraught I wanted to scream.

This is so fucked up. They'd kill me if I turned my back on them. I don't want to put anyone down, but if I have to?

I will.


Flinching at Lucy's touch, I calmed instantly. She was holding a knife, from one of the fallen Scourge.

It was dripping with blood.

"The first guy." She took a ragged breath. "The one you burned. He wasn't dead. I ... I had to make sure he wasn't gonna get up."

For all of the bluster and attitude she had, her reaction was the same as mine.


Lucy had a tough mind, and her father had made sure she knew physical self-defence, but butchering human beings and seeing them die in front of us was something else.

People who were once 'normal' but now ... tools of the dragons.

Nobody should have to go through ... THIS.

"I know how messed up all of this is, but we can't trust anything they say. We've just gotta do what we have to, to get out of here." I pointed to the stairwell, the path down, to the outside world. "Like you told me: I've got your back. We'll make it. Are you ready?"

Lucy took a deep breath.

"Yeah," she said, "let's kick ass."


I didn't know how far up we were, but the building we were inside had to be more than a hundred feet tall. We kept going down, as quickly and quietly as we could. It was all made with old-time stone cobbling, like something out of a renaissance fair, though the masonry seemed put together extremely well. I could see the faint glimmer of magic in it, the dragons having added an extra something in its construction to hold the structure together, or maybe strengthen it.

We only ran into a couple of Scourge a few stories down, surprising them and eliminating them easily. The last few floors were deserted, and I began to worry why we weren't seeing more of them.

Until we reached the bottom.

The ground floor was triple the height of the ones above it, with a pit in the centre that served as a nucleus for the tower. A small lip of stone was around it, a magical fire burning in the middle that served as both a comfort and some kind of defensive enchantment function, though I couldn't tell exactly what. The staircase we were descending curved away from the wall and toward the fire pit, the last steps finishing just short of it. Directly opposite, there was an arch doorway leading outside.

On the left from where we were, in the wall, there was another arch, set at a perfect acute 45 degree angle relative to the outside exit, only this stayed inside, continuing into a covered passage.

On the right was an identical arch, a mirror image of the left; the same distance from the middle, also leading into a covered passage.

Except, the left was empty as far along as I could see, the way clear.

The right had at least twenty Scourge emerging from it.


They were looking around, expectant, already knowing something was amiss, and they saw us as we exited the steps; shouts of surprise, scuffing of feet, and they began to spread out.

I was hit by another flash of premonition, and I knew what had to happen.

She needs to get out of here, or she'll die.

"Lucy." I pointed to the left arch. "Go. Run!"

She ran, slowing for a second, a glance over her shoulder in confusion as to why I wasn't following.

"RUN!" I yelled.

She didn't look back again, tearing across the floor with renewed haste. The Scourge were dispersing, both toward me and in the other direction around the fire pit, moving to follow her and block all the exits so they could do their knife-work. Lucy had just entered the arch, with the first of the Scourge a dozen feet away from me, when there was a ground-shaking thump from outside.

A dragon, head low to the earth so he could glare through the arch, lines of bright red and rusty brown streaking his frilled horns and jaw, eyes bright with malice.

Sneaking human, his voice boomed into my head, a ringing exclamation, did you think you'd escape?

His jaw snapped open, and all I could see were fangs and the building glow of impending death. I had three seconds to see where the flames would go, and they covered most of the chamber, except for one spot.

I dived forward, my shoulder scraping painfully as I slid on the stone, and I rolled hard against the lip of the fire pit, flattening myself.

It wasn't much, but it was enough.

Dragon fire swept a couple of feet above me, a flood of it engulfing the rest of the room, incinerating all the Scourge in one go.

As quickly as it started, it cut off again, another loud sound interrupting.

What's THAT?

I scrambled to my feet, desperate to know what was going on, staring over the scorched chamber and tufts of residual flame, to the view outside the central arch.

Through it, I could see thrashing limbs, the marauding fire dragon locked in struggle with another.

It was a blue dragon.


The chosen of the sky goddess, Sebakâli, the Sword of the Heavens, had left little to chance.

He had scouted the sanctuary of the Seventh House thoroughly before infiltrating it, and had made sure to understand where everything and everyone was located, and how the defenders would respond to incursion.

From the air, the fortress was a precise geometric design, both symmetrical and immense. It was a diamond, with the four corner points aligning with the designations on a compass. Each point consisted of an enormous circular tower, several dozen feet in diameter and well over three hundred high. At the diamond's centre was a slightly wider fifth tower. The diamond's sides were hundreds of feet long, giving a significant area of enclosed space within, and the perimeter connecting the towers was shorter walls that reached approximately two-fifths of the height.

The walls were thick, but hollow, with passages inside them at ground level to allow safe covered movement from point to point. The alternative method lay far above; just two stories from the top, there were sky bridges following the same boundary line of the diamond shape. They were unsupported flat walkways that were a marvel of architecture kept aloft by magic. As well as connecting the corner towers to one another, there were an additional four bridges running to the central tower, allowing the patrolling Scourge to easily criss-cross and monitor the entire castle from the aerial lanes.

The terrain around the site was heavily forested steep hills on three sides, and difficult to navigate by foot. Though this was no issue for dragons, the only sensible ground access was from the south, where the land was flat and clear. It was a narrow approach and easy to observe, so the gates for the human servants were consequently located close on either side of the southern tower.

His reconnaissance had indicated a few things. Apart from the Scourge numbers, which were approximately a couple of hundred, he had estimated eight hostile dragons. Five of those were from the Fifth House; one sentinel assigned to each of the four outer towers, with a fifth incumbent in the central tower, whom Sebby had only glimpsed. The sentinels were watchdogs and spent most of their time at their posts, scanning for outward danger.

The remaining three were the familiar personalities that had conducted the ambush at Overmountain, and although it was possible there were more, he had seen no sign of any others from the Seventh House. The conjecture about them being elsewhere in the world or having joined Michael in Mirrorvale seemed to be true. Nero, he was certain was in the central tower, which seemed to be the nexus of command, likely with Triskeleth and quite a number of attendant Scourge.

The other two?

There was no sign of Kaia's location, nor the Grey Prince.

His initial deduction was that the most efficient breach method either had to be climbing the perimeter wall from a forested side where they would not normally anticipate it, or a drop from the air at an extreme height, taking advantage of the shielding effect of his native element. The aerial foray made the most sense, and his target was to be either the north -- the Boreal Tower, as the fortress residents called it -- or the east, the Orient Tower. The reasons were twofold; the sentinel dragons at those two points were weaker links, and were less aware of stealth than those at the west and south, and those same two towers were also where the prisoners were located; the former holding Araziah, and the latter Torsten and Lucy.

It was an easy choice.

As much as he had wanted to go directly to Torsten's aid and indulge his emotions, the importance of Araziah's immediate freedom could not be overstated.

He had fallen on the hapless Boreal sentinel from far above, the enemy dragon's realisation arriving far too late to stop the conclusion. The scuffle had lasted only a couple of seconds, the defending dragon able to block one hit, immediately recognise the dire situation, and attempt, through fire-weaving, to send up a signal flare and raise the alarm.

He did not manage to do so before Sebby's shock-burst and second strike tore him open.

The mirage he left behind, an image of the now-slain fire dragon standing on the tower summit as if he were still performing his duty, was temporary but it would suffice for long enough. The assassination had been carried out without the Scourge nor the other dragons noticing, and with stealth intact he continued on. Dropping unseen down the side of the Boreal Tower, Sebby had slipped through the window, to find Kaia and her prisoner.

He had never been more ready for such a moment.

Seeing her back to him, knowing the perfect anonymity of his undetected entrance, feeling the weight of divine retribution in his hand?

All of it was justice.

After their rendezvous and imparting his collected intelligence to Araziah, a plan had been settled upon. The air dragon had left the chamber via the door, eliminating the small number of Scourge on the upper floors, Kaia neither needing nor caring about human assistance, before he arrived at the sky bridge that led to the Orient Tower.

Next, to free his friends.

He strode along the bridge, his aura of secrecy at full strength, pushed to the maximum. There were exactly nine Scourge idly strolling or standing on the walkway, and as Sebby passed by them, the clueless humans not even aware he was there, he implanted a suggestion in each with a mental flourish. It was a clandestine command that quickly and easily overrode the Conclave's regular possession.

Hollow creature, rest your mind and forget your troubles.

Slumber in absent thought and see nothing, for a time.

There was no need to slaughter these pathetic beings unless they got in his way. His eyes stayed on the real target as he crossed the bridge; the Orient sentinel. The dragon in question was standing near the edge, looking outward over the landscape.

Watching, waiting.

Expecting any threat to come from elsewhere, not guessing that his Boreal compatriot was no more than a figment.

Still, the influence of Sebby's magical suggestion had to hold.

If the sentinel were to glance along the bridge, he had to see nothing, and continue to do so.

Sebby could not be noticed early.

The advance was steady, the wind refreshing and brisk this high above the American landscape, the late afternoon nearing dusk. He continued without impediment, the gap closing, his concentration well focused. He was only fifty feet shy of entering the Orient Tower, when abruptly, the sentinel dragon turned, alerted by something.

Sebby froze, refocusing his aura, magnifying it on the target.

Yet, the fire dragon did not even blink in his direction. Instead, he walked across to the inner side, just to the right of the sky bridge's connecting junction to the central tower, and looked down intently, seeing or hearing something else.

Abruptly, the sentinel leaped a second later, transforming as he fell. Sebby rushed to the side of the sky bridge, peered down in time to hear the dragon's voice echoing up from above as he spoke into the foyer, then ... fire, gushing through the base chamber of the Orient Tower.

'Sneaking human' ... ?


Yet, something more remarkable followed.

A shape had sped in from the east, swerving over the now-unwatched tower wall, and it collided with the sentinel in a swoop of cobalt.


Araziah stood still, at the window.

He had not moved since Sebby's departure.

Poised, ready, his fury was kept caged within as the air dragon had suggested. It was difficult to restrain himself, but he did.

He would unleash it when his prey was vulnerable.

The view from where he stood was excellent. He had no reason to run, sneak, play with human minds. The covert sharpness of the air dragon was all well and good for a sky child, but Araziah embodied another way. It simply required the right moment and the right place, and he could see the majority of the activity going on in the fortress from where he was.

There were only two dragons he truly wished to find, and he had not seen a hint of them.

Not yet.

He glanced to the sky bridge, and saw Sebby emerge from the nearby aperture and begin to cross to the Orient Tower. The nearest Scourge did not react to the air dragon's appearance nor his increasing proximity, remaining utterly oblivious to his presence and engaged in their tasks.

His attention shifted back across to the centre, and right then, he saw it.

A crowd of Scourge were exiting the central building on the sky bridge, heading west to the Occident Tower. Already a portion of the way through, they were moving quickly, almost at a run, and in the middle of the cordon of bodies was a dragon.


Araziah's focus intensified, his stare and the complex urges of his enhanced perception scanning the human-form of the Grey Prince. The figure flashed in and out of view between the Scourge escorts, but one thing was clear.

He was carrying something.

A little something, in his right hand, a cloth bundle no larger than an apple.

The Fear.

He looked to the tower's apex. The Occident sentinel had noticed the protective cadre, and already moved across to observe it. At the same time, Araziah perceived a subtle enchantment woven into the rooftop. It was a launcher boost, giving an added thrust that would propel a flying dragon quickly up.

Further, not far from that, outside the fortress bounds, in the middle distance to the west, lay the clouding effect at the start of the Corridor.

The western tower was the egress point; made for ease of departure.

There was only one explanation that made sense.

The Grey Prince was leaving with the Fear.

Araziah needed to act, but the timing was critical.

He itched for it, but he waited, allowing the seconds to tick by even as his senses demanded he strike, letting it continue longer than he was comfortable with. His wrath had increased, boiled higher, but he held it, seeing the figures get closer to their destination.

They needed to be at the optimum point.


Araziah teleported to the Occident sentinel. Kaia's knife jabbed, cutting into the human-form's side, then he pushed the flailing wounded dragon off the tower, before assuming his natural form. Wings unfurling, front claws gripping the battlement's stone merlons, he leaned forth, looming above the party, and bathed the approach in fire.


Mordred had only a momentary uncertain confusion to hear the battlecry and understand the situation, his own transformation a reflex, before Araziah struck him. With their combined weight and the red dragon's momentum, they crashed through the sky bridge and the incinerated Scourge. Cobbling, ash, and scorched stone scattered from the impact, and the pair plunged down, Araziah's slashing claws raking deep into the hide and scaling on Mordred's chest and neck.

They impacted the ground with force enough to shatter the tiled path beneath the towers. The Grey Prince was roaring in pain, and with impressive acrobatic skill he bucked, his lower body twisting, his legs kicking. Araziah lost his grip, and was sent flying into a forward roll. Head over tail, he came about, righting himself, but Mordred was fast and very agile, already away. Araziah whirled, spying his foe above, climbing the Occident Tower in fitful leaps. It was the first chance to look at the Grey Prince's dragon form and he cut a striking figure; leaden all over, befitting his title, but for burgundy dabs -- a frontal bib of it, the lower jaw, eye sockets, and streaks of warpaint on his wings and long straight horns. Limber, he flapped as he climbed, using the thrust to speed his ascent. Further above, the other sentinel dragon, having latched onto the tower's side before he reached the base, was now rising too, uninterested in engagement and more concerned with Mordred's defence.

Why not attack? It was two against one, but ...

... he could see Mordred's right foreclaw was clenched, just as his human hand had been, and he was not using it in his climb. Mordred was still holding the Fear, and it was then Araziah realised: the object could not be transfigured and 'stored' with the human form as many other personal items could be. It was an artifact of divine origin and being the sliver of a dead god made it beyond the scope of simple transformational magic.

Mordred could not release it, and the sentinel with him was injured.

They were at a disadvantage, not able to fight properly, and not sure they could win.

Behind, in the rest of the fortress, he heard the muted roar of other dragons engaging in combat, the subconscious perception assuming Sebby's responsibility. The nearest Scourge on the ground were running, some away from him, some towards the other fracas, shouting and screaming in dismay at Araziah's sudden presence, or perhaps at whatever else had alarmed their miniscule senses. Through those few seconds, Araziah did not give chase, but continued to watch.

He had bottled his wrath again, his body coiling at the tower base, his attention fixed unfailingly above, intent murderous but strategically converged, inerrantly aimed.

He knew what he would do next.

Mordred reached the summit, glaring down at him, the companion sentinel doing the same, both baffled by the lack of immediate aggression, the doubt sowed at his oddly restrained behaviour becoming full-blown paranoia, the meaning as a battle-tactic stalling any more decisive reactions.

Not just that, but dread.

Dread at a 'hatchling' that was nearly as grown and mature as an adult decades older.

Dread at how strong he was already, at what he was becoming.

Yet, above, before the Grey Prince could move to depart, another intrusion changed the possibilities completely.

The sky shimmered, a hazy blue glow sweeping it, a magical shield crossing overhead, boxing in the fortress.

A moment later, a water dragon burst into view, swerving over the western tower's summit to collide with the wounded sentinel, in a throated call of wild sea surf pounding onto rock.


Even better.

Now, there was no way to escape.

With a hungering joyful voracity, full of the yearning for battle, Araziah leaped up, teleporting again to the top of the Occident Tower.



I dashed around the pit, the earth shaking, flashes of wings, scales, spikes, and snatches of sound whipping past the arch. Trying to get to safe viewing distance, I was stopped before I got within twenty feet of the arch. The wall on the right side of it erupted as the blue dragon's head crashed through, evidently rammed into it by his opponent. Baying in indignation, he withdrew immediately, the fire dragon hauling him free of the obstruction. Physically larger, the sentinel threw the water dragon down, having gained the upper hand in their wrestling, restraining him, while that familiar glow rose through the open jaws.


Instead, from above, a platinum blur dropped into view.


For a moment, I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but I was seeing it. The third landed with his entire weight on the shoulders of the rampant fire dragon. The sentinel was yanked backward, but Sebby rappelled away, repositioning himself in an aerial flip. He reoriented in the air, light and easy, then landed on the spread right wing of his opponent, pinning it to the ground. In a flash, the water dragon was up, the immobilised enemy thrashing as he tried to come free, but water mirrored his new ally, weight fully upon the left wing.


At the same time, they attacked.

From one side, a storm of lightning.

On the other, a torrent of ice.

The electricity arced down across the sentinel's chest, and layers of frost formed over the skull. It was indefensible, the ice rapidly thickening, the flickering shocks continuing, and the resistance slowed. At first savage, the struggle weakened, the scrabbling claws doing nothing, until the breath attacks abruptly stopped. Without letting a moment pass, the water dragon turned his lower body, his tail whipping around to smack with bludgeoning force.

Like a hammer, it slammed into the ice-encased skull of the sentinel, which smashed beneath the blow, a red mist of bloodied shards and glittering fragments scattering from the impact.

"Sebby?!" I was yelling, stepping over the wall's rubble, and I didn't care who knew.

He had to hear me.


Torsten?! His head swiveled from the sentinel's death pyre and he saw me. Torsten! In a blink, he had scooped me up through the wrecked wall of the tower's ground floor, lifting me in front for a moment, his perception immediately noting both the activated energy weapon on my arm, and the different way I was looking at him.

I could see the magic in both dragons, and while water was filled with a blue glow that seemed completely appropriate, Sebby's light was blinding bright.

Far more than what it should have been.

He's alive.


What happened to him?

You did it.

He knew without me having to say anything, and there was a lot I wanted to say to him. Before I could, the water dragon interrupted our reunion, not realising how well we knew each other, how closely we were connected.

Tempest's sister-son -- friend Sebby! Your skill is needed!

Viktor! Sebby's reply was paired with raising me up, offering me to the water dragon like a cherished possession. You came with the Order, did you not? Bear him to their safety! He is important.

Viktor's eyes zeroed on me, an appraisal taking place as he judged why such a strange request was made in mid-conflict for the sake of a single mere human, but it was momentary and done with fast, Sebby's word accepted. No more conversation took place, and Viktor snatched me from Sebby's grasp, his haunches compressing, and then we were launching up, the wings flapping rapidly as our trajectory changed in mid-air, and then it was a curve around the tower side, over the walls, and out.

The fortress was passing behind, then a fuzz of static also, a blue barrier that we shot through with no problem as we exited.

A shield?

I was being dumped, quickly but not unkindly, onto the open deck of what had to be an Order gunship. It was one of several hovering a few hundred feet clear of the fortress, and I took a moment to look at the place we'd just left, and see what was going on.

The castle was enormous, with five towers, each hundreds of feet high.

A magical dome was encasing it, a blue shield that covered the entire complex from one side to the other, and was powered and projected by several devices deposited outside on the ground.

Sebby, in his dragon form, was partially visible as he nimbly climbed the central tower.

In the distance, atop the furthest tower, were no less than four dragons; two fire dragons, Mordred and a second, were locked in combat with another water dragon, and an unmistakable fourth.


Suppressing fire from some kind of magic weaponry was streaking from the Order gunships closest to the tower that served as the complex's entry, and there were Order agents debarking; onto the sky bridges, and on the ground, trying to open the gates and deal with the Scourge.

From the central tower's base, two human-form figures were emerging, and though it was difficult to make them out from the range and angle of elevation, I did recognise one.

Nero, and an unnamed companion.

Their transformation was immediate.

Without a beat, Nero rose directly up, the largest adult dragon-form of any of the present defenders, brawny and aggressive. His attention was exclusively on the tower by the entrance to the citadel, which was the point where the Order was focusing the attack. Clambering up the side he paused a moment to lean around it, his size making the movement short and easy, and exhaled on the Order personnel below, an impressive carpet of fire blanketing the entry zone.

He was the lord of the castle and he was going to burn out the invaders.

The other?

My precognition kicked into overdrive, and it was like my brain zoomed to the secondary dragon, my senses flooded with what was going to happen.

His name is Xander.

He's from the Fifth House.

If he is allowed to move freely, he will choose to fly to that far tower, and use his unique ability to help Mordred win the fight.

I could see what would happen if he reached the top. It was a super-quick montage of possibilities and all of them were bad. The horrible clarity and unfair selectiveness of the seer's power became totally clear to me, the powerless certainty of distant foresight no less brutal than total cluelessness.

Knowledge, without means.

Sebby won't notice him until it's too late, and Araziah will die if nothing happens

I can't do anything to change that ... but maybe someone else can.

"Viktor!" I shouted at the water dragon, who was still hovering next to the gunship, though he was about to pull away and return to the battle. My voice was just loud enough to make it above the wind and engines, and his head turned. "See him? See that dragon!?!" My arm was thrust to Xander's location and his attention followed. "STOP HIM! In ANY way you can!"

What? Why must-

"SLOW HIM DOWN! DRAW ATTENTION! ANYTHING!" I screamed. "If he flies up -- IF -- he reaches the Grey Prince?!? THEY WIN!"

Viktor stared at me, his irises a whirling storm of ice, pupils a darkened marine abyss. My urgency had startled and surprised him, but swiftly, he looked away, to the shape of Xander, which was beginning to move from the central tower's base and toward Mordred, meaning to intercept and assist.


Believe me.

The water dragon dipped away from the gunship, wings still beating. His arms moved in the air, tracing some arcane symbols, blue light pulsing from the claw-tips as he wove his magic. Ice accumulated, the energy of water drawing it together into a long thin shape, building in thickness, and in short order he had fashioned a haft that ran more than two dozen feet. In moments more it was completed, and Viktor hefted the spear. Though hardly suited for feats of human athletics, he turned slightly where he hovered and tossed it, the 30-foot glacial spike sailing through the sky with as much speed and accuracy as if launched by a machine.

It flew straight and clean, passing through the shield as it streaked towards the airborne form of Xander.


It was an annoying truth that Agent Crawley had never been very fond of heights. His phobia was the cause of more than a couple of drinking binges over the years, but it was one that he had eventually and studiously found more practical ways to deal with, especially when the situation demanded it.

The current situation was definitely one of those.

As Crawley strode along the sky bridge with the primary Order strike team, the Austral Tower just ahead, he tried his best not to think about the fact that the ground was at least 350 feet below him, and the only thing keeping him where he was, was a thin walkway supported mostly by ... magic.

Distasteful was one word for it.

Instead, he focused his mind on the situation.

Guards on the western and eastern towers 're busy. River Snake #1 hit the west but Araziah was there already -- useful he's free, but what the hell were they doin', lettin' a prisoner that dangerous stay alive and escape? -- and River Snake #2 is runnin' interference on the east. North is unmanned -- why? Do I care? Not really, but it's strange. The southern gate structure is on us. We've got it, or soon enough.

Procedure: Incog arrival? Check. Neutralise the tower's occupant? Next up. Then secure the gate, lock down the southern side. Kill remaining Conclave. Sweep the complex. Clean out Scourge.

That was the plan.

They barged into the southern tower from the sky bridge, the landing empty of any Scourge, but the agent's entrance met with that of another. The human-form Austral sentinel was descending from the roof via the stairs, just a couple of stories above, and he was their designated first target. Immediately the Order team opened fire, mistaking him for one of the Scourge elite, though the error was fleeting; bullets pinged away or embedded only skin-deep in shallow ineffectual wounds, and they quickly stopped shooting.

"Fifth," Crawley snapped it, "or Seventh?"

"Guns? Puny weapons! Ashbringer take you!" His hand shot out, magic gathering, his psychic presence exerting itself in the following words upon the foes in front of him, compulsion strong. "Surrender your-"


Crawley was faster on the quickdraw, his Diamondback up and blaring after the mention of the Ashbringer. The arcane-imbued rounds were very expensive and slow to make, their crafting being too arduous for mass production, but each was custom made to pierce the extreme toughness of draconic armour. Crawley only had four bullets available, and they were loaded in his cylinder.

All four hit the dragon's head, interrupting him mid-speech.

He jerked from the successive impacts, then fell backwards onto the stairs, already dead, blood leaking from the entry wounds in his skull.

"Never had the pleasure of usin' my special rounds before. Got the honour of 'em all, bucko. Ain't ya lucky?" He reloaded the revolver, directing the team at the same time. "You three, secure the roof and call in any fliers. The rest, with me. Clean house to the basement."

The agent began to descend, the team trailing him. He could hear the squawks in his earpiece, speaking of the lack of outside defences, the internal chaos, the fighting as the Order's other teams breached the lower floors, repressed the magical defences, and tried for the gate. Still, his focus was here, and they sped down floor after floor, disposing of the Scourge they came across. A limited few had personal shields and stun magic available, but the agents with him were seasoned individuals and there was little they couldn't handle.

They were most of the way down, only a half dozen stories short of the base, when Crawley glimpsed rusty scaling flick past the window, a ruddy back leg gripping the tower exterior, then several stories above the rushing fwoosh of an exhaled flame.


Alerted, out and about.

"Son of a bitch," he muttered, and picked up the pace. Flying down the last couple of stories, they reached the ground floor of the tower to find pandemonium.

The assaulting Order teams were attacking from outside, but the gate control ancillary stations on the Austral Tower's front were stubborn, the operating Scourge barricaded in and resisting at close quarters. The last of a number of Scourge were being dealt within the chamber proper, one of the other teams having arrived first, but more Scourge were appearing along the Occident ground passage, rendering the gate on that side inaccessible until they were cleared. Through the smoke and yelling, he knew what had to happen.

"Hold them there -- don't let them control this room! Keep pressure on the gates!" He pointed at the Occident entryway, then to the obstructed doors to the gate control stations. "Breach those! Direct all spare force!"

His team complied, darting down the final stretch of stairs and ahead to their comrades, and Crawley stomped fearlessly after them, and into the fray.

This was all for a purpose, but fighting the Conclave's minions was a task for other men.


He ignored the combat with the Scourge, instead cutting behind the Order personnel and across the chamber.

He was here for dragons.

Specifically one that he could see, in a direct line of sight, straight ahead.

His eyes did not leave the shape of Nero's form, the dragon's body compacting as he landed next to the Austral Tower, having immolated its upper levels and exterior. His wings were extended, his head forward, and the booming roar of his verbalised anger echoed through Crawley's soul.

The agent approached the arch leading to the outside, his aim unimpeded, his right hand rising.

On it, the glove's five gems pulsed red, white light beginning to glow from the palm as it powered up.


Lucy Atkinson was running.

As Torsten had told her, she went fast as she could, not turning when she heard the whoosh of rushing flame into the room she'd just vacated, and the brief screams of incinerated men.

She couldn't think about what had happened behind her.

He's the seer.

He'll be fine.

She had to believe it.

Ahead, the straight line of the passage was clear and empty, and she continued to run, her breath coming shorter, before there was the glimpse of figures ahead, in the chamber this one connected to.

Human shapes.

They were fighting.


She skidded to a halt, chest heaving, and stared at the arch, still at least fifty feet distant.

Is that ... the Order?

Slower, cautious, eyes wide, Lucy walked closer, then sidled carefully the last few feet, catching a glance of the chamber.

Just like the other one, a fire pit in the middle, Scourge dying to the Order, and none other than the weirdo PI himself, Agent Crawley, walking intently to the outside arch.


Lucy opened her mouth, wanting to call out to him, but the interior wall of the chamber erupted, stone spraying as a rippling wave of explosive pressure ran past, straight through her position.

Flying, caught in a sweeping push that cut through the wall and knocked her clean onto grass and daylight, Lucy rolled, dazed.

She sat up, covered in rock chips and dust, winded from the force of the impact.

What was that?!

Behind her, a large chunk of the tower's base wall, and that of the connecting passage, was ripped open.

In front, Nero's tail was swinging back around him from his swipe, the dragon's head lowering with the circular movement, before he breathed out again, the gout of fire aimed at the scar he had torn in the building's side.

It inundated the tower's ground floor, washing over Scourge and Order alike.

No ...

On a tangent between her and the dragon: Agent Crawley.

He was trying to stand, but he was stunned, and wounded, his fedora missing, bleeding from a forehead scrape, and very unsteady.

The dragon turned, catching sight of the agent.

He went still a moment, surprised.

Crawley. The tone was amused, almost joyful. What a happy coincidence.

"The glove!" He gasped, staggering upright, eyes darting crazily across the grass. "Where- ... where is it?!"

You came a long way to die. The dragon swung fully about. He was solid and hardy, a heavy brawler of his kind, coloured in orange-tinged rust all over. Nero's front claws thumped on the soil from shifting position, and reveling in the moment, forgetting the cries of battle, the clamour happening in a dozen places nearby, his undivided attention was given to Crawley. I'd hate to disappoint.

"Hey! Hey you! Asshole!" Lucy didn't know how she managed to keep her voice from cracking, and denying the instincts that wanted her to just run away, the attention of the enormous utterly-deadly creature switching from the agent to her. "Leave him ALONE!"

You. Equally as surprised, Nero snorted, smoke puffing from his nostrils. What good are you, little girl?

"You'll have to see." She went a step forward and crouched to pick up what was at her feet.

The gauntlet.

Lucy took it and pulled it on her right hand.

A magical curio? He stared at it, his interest caught. Intriguing. I will have it. His compulsion honed itself, concentrating on her, sent with the familiar air of superiority. Remove the toy. Bow down. Offer yourself and this gift to your new master.

"No." The order scratched against her will ... but it didn't make a dent.

What? You were commanded. His focus grew, the pressure increasing, her resistance not something the dragon had experienced. Obey. Remove it.


You defy me? His patience was done, and he reared, the prelude to becoming no more than ash. Then ... BURN.

The jet of fire shot from Nero's gaping maw, at least sixty feet distant, to hit-


It bounced away from Lucy's hand, an armslength shy, the flame dispersing and diverting to the sides, deflected and reduced to nothing.

The barrage stopped.

Nero was agape at the human girl before him, astonished.


She stared back, then to the outstretched glove.

It wasn't a toy at all.

It was a real weapon.

The balance had changed, the power shifted.

He knew it, and he could not abide it.

The dragon Nero roared, infuriated, and began to charge.

If she was not fast enough, able enough, it would not matter.

Yet, wearing Crawley's weapon had altered something about her perceptions. It wasn't exactly magic, and she didn't know how she could do so, but ... she felt it -- and she knew she could affect it.

His mind.

She pulled with her right hand, fingers curving, and something impossible happened.

"STOP!" Lucy demanded.

Glowing sparks flew from the gauntlet, and Nero faltered, stumbling to a halt. Claws ground through the earth, hind limbs throwing up dirt, as he came to standstill.

What? What are you- ... n- ... no. The dragon shook his head, but he moved like he was drunk.




"Yes!" Her fingers carved in a weaving movement, and she corralled the remainder of his psychic resistance with a swirling gesture in front of her, squashing it. "You will obey me!"

I ... obey. His head dipped unwillingly, his wings flattening into an imposed meek submission.


"You're a monster and you're going to die for ALL the shit you've done to people during your life," she told him, "but first, I'm going to take the most valuable thing you know. Tell me- ... tell me your true name, and the true names of your family. The ones that matter."

The desperation, the total and unparalleled terror at his powerlessness, was like nothing else, and he could not stop his voice from replying, exactly as he had forced countless humans to over the last century and a half.

I am Nerunex. My brother Darren is Darricus. Our eldest Michael is Erezuur. He snorted, eyes wide, willing it to end, but unable to make it. My uncle Lothian is Luvengor. My cousin Kaia is Karidom. My cousin Mordred is Morvalzîr.

"Lucy!" Crawley's arm quivered as he pointed at Nero, breath coming hard. "He's tryin' to free himself! He's fightin' it! Don't wait! Kill him NOW!"

He was right.

She could feel the pushback, as Nerunex struggled for control.

It was likely her control would not hold.

No stupid risks.

"This is for Sebby, and everyone you've fucked with," she held out her hand, palm aimed at him, "and it's going to hurt."

A beam of white energy burst from the gauntlet. It passed through the middle of the right wing, slicing it off in a clean amputation, the severed half falling to the ground. She directed the beam sideways over his chest, meandering, but slowly.

Through the scales, the hardened armour, bone, flesh, it cut. The beam took only two seconds to disintegrate his body front to back wherever it touched; unmaking the dragon's physical matter, a surgical laser tearing through the central mass.

She stopped before she got halfway.

Deliberate, purposeful.

It wasn't going to be fast.

She wanted him to suffer.

The gash carved in his side was gruesome. Steaming blood and jets of internal flame spurted and sprayed, and he could not stand. Wavering, he swayed for a second before his balance was lost, and he collapsed with a ground-shaking thump; his left wing and other limbs splaying on the surface. Nerunex gave a low keening rumble in a feeble protest, his head sliding flat and twisting on the soil so his big reptilian left eye could glare at her from where he lay; uncomprehending how this could be happening, wishing her dead but too weakened to act or even speak. Through the disbelief of his agony, laboured puffs of breath came slower and shallower, and his jaw opened. A stream of boiling fluid was coughed up, two weak spasms of it discharging over the grass in front of him, and with a last fading moaning cry that tapered away, the eyelid slid down. The dragon's body slumped properly, becoming lax, still, and settling at his final rest.


The ice spear struck Xander on his right flank as he was gaining altitude. It was a stinging blow that sent him off course and he collided with the side of the Occident Tower. Not enough to cause any real damage, the hit was mostly just an annoyance, but it was also interference. His head flicked about, seeking the source of the disruption, and for a dozen seconds he scanned his surrounds. It had not come from close, but his reaction gave him just enough time to perceive an incoming streak of silver from above.

It knocked him off the tower side, his grip on the stone freed, and they plunged the short distance to the ground, the imposter on his back, their landing point the same impact crater from the Grey Prince's fall not long before.

The aggressor was slippery, fangs tearing at the wing joints, clinging to him as they spun together. Backing up, Xander slammed him against the Occident Tower's base, loosening the hold momentarily, and with a practiced deftness, he turned in a half circle, contorting to hold his passenger in place as he did so. Face to face, both foreclaws latched onto the air dragon's skull and he activated his power.

Too close, sky child. The magic poured out, draining from his victim into Xander; weakening one and strengthening the other in a vampiric embrace. Your life force is mine, and I will sacrifice it to our father!

Yet, the dragon he had grappled simply dissolved.


Becoming a mass of white light, it split into a hundred streamers that snaked around his forelimbs and wings and chest and torso, magical bonds wrapping him and clinging tight. The free ends were rising, strands converging in the air into a thick rope of it, a lasso that flowed upward. They met thirty feet above, a leash emanating from the left foreclaws of the real Sebakâli, the air dragon hovering between the towers.

No. His eyes were lit with the magic of his element, and his voice was vibrant with it. It is you who is the sacrifice. In the name of the Celestial Mother, you are condemned -- and I am the blade of her justice!

Raising his right forelimb to the sky, there was a crackle of thunder, and then lightning came from the heavens. Bolt after bolt struck, again and again, forking and leaping from cloud to the air dragon's claws. The power of the Spirit of Air descended to her champion, his body wracked with electricity. It sparked and rolled across the glittering platinum of his form, dancing along the edges of his wings with the rhythm of their rise and fall. Through him, it passed, the collected energy running down the magical chains confining Xander, in a single uninterrupted stream.

It did not harm Sebby, but the fire dragon?

Xander writhed, convulsing, pulling at the bonds, but they only grew tighter, multiplying along with the electrical deluge, covering more and more of his scales, drawing his wings even further in. He fought it, but he could not stop it, the shocking pain tearing his insides, the ropes swaddling him in a blanket of doom, restricting even his breath, wrapping around his upper jaw.

With a terminal sputtering gulp, he was beaten, the weakness overwhelming, damage done, and the summoned lightning ceased. Sebby released him, the chains dispersing into the air, the electrocuted form of the Fifth House heir dismissed on the floor of the fortress.


The top of the Occident Tower was dozens of feet wide, but with four atop, it was crowded. Araziah's initial return had been disruptive, and the tower sentinel, who was locked in close combat with the water dragon, had steered the fight to the centre point of the summit. Though wounded, he was still the largest of the present, and had repeatedly rebuffed Araziah, knocking him away from combat with any means available, and keeping himself in the middle and the Grey Prince protected on the opposite side.

It was an odd dance of frenzied movements, with the combatants circling, back and forth, in a clamour of fangs, writhing scales and jerking wings. Tongues of fire and ice burst in the brief moments where it was possible, and Araziah tried, again and again, for an opening to pull the sentinel away, to pierce a hole and break apart the melee so he might insert himself and use his strength. The dragon was an older member of the Fifth House, and not only was his natural armour tough, but his defensive ability was proficient; bites were fended off even whilst occupied, attempted grapples seemingly denied with little effort, and slash damage minimised.

It went on for nearly a minute before there was chance, and when he saw it, he took it. The sentinel had been on the higher position for most of the struggle, but in a slippery twisting pull, the water dragon reversed it, their positions switching. The sentinel was down, and Araziah dived in, going for the neck.

What he didn't account for was the sentinel's tail.

Unrestrained, it skimmed horizontally along the surface in a rapid sweep that surprised him, knocking him off balance and over the tower edge.

Forest and sky whirled, and he frantically reached for the tower's side, falling only two dozen feet down, claws digging in. Clinging to the building, he pushed himself up, springing back to the top, yet again, only to find his new ally in the throes of death.

Too slow.

Given free reign, Mordred's stun had been enough, and the sentinel's concentrated fire on a defenceless target had done it. Held in place, the water dragon's front was badly charred, with exposed glistening tissue, the damage far too extensive, and with a parting kick from the sentinel, the mortally-weakened opponent was thrown from the Occident Tower. He struck the sky bridge to the Austral, grasping at it momentarily to keep from falling, but he had no strength left, and he slid off the side, dragged by his own weight, vanishing to the forest below.

The moment was infuriating, but it was an unfortunate opportunity.

The sentinel had to die, and fast.

Teleporting on top of him in the space where the water dragon had just been, Araziah surprised them, grabbing Mordred's horn with his left forelimb. Yanking him down, he bashed their skulls together; once, twice, thrice, both stunned, then his tail whipped round in an effective imitation of the the sentinel's previous move. It smacked into the Grey Prince's torso, knocking him back, right to the tower's edge. With his right forelimb, he prodded at the sentinel's side, feeling for the wound he had given earlier, and finding it, he thrust the entire hand under the scales, and through the cut.


Araziah's claws tore in, pushing up and around, mangling. Scales around the wound were driven out from the inside, and the slash became wider, deeper. He felt the sentinel's defence slip at the sudden catastrophic damage and intense pain. At the same time, with the left forelimb he held the sentinel's head up, forcing it back and revealing the neck, and with all his fury bit down, his jaws as wide as they could go.

His teeth pierced through, sinking all the way in, as far as possible, and once anchored, with an almighty pull, he wrenched his head back and tore the sentinel's throat out.

Now, it was even.

Turning about, Araziah shoved the dead dragon off the tower side, spitting the mouthful of flesh out, his fangs and face drenched in heated draconic blood. Mordred had stabilised himself, skirting around the tower edge away from Araziah, and the two faced one another, the gap between them only just wide enough to allow a temporary lull.

You are running out of friends, the red dragon mocked, and have nowhere to go. He shook his head, drops of gore splattering the stone between them. Who can save you now?

The Grey Prince's eyes lit up, his only reasonable defence, the paralytic stun beginning. It was just as potent as in human form, and it hit Araziah like the psychic hammer that it was, breaking all response and immobilising him.

Nero will destroy these Order fools and cancel the shield. Mordred's grip on the Fear was tight, and all he had to do was wait. Xander is already on his way. I saw him.

There was a thunderclap, then a series of lightning strikes crackled down, jagged lines of electricity lancing to earth. For a number of seconds it continued, hitting within the fortress grounds, between the towers and perilously close to where they were before cutting off, the reverbating rumble of it dying away.

Really? Araziah forced the vocal projection out, despite the stun. The sky goddess seems to think not.

As if in agreement, there was a gust over the battlement's edge from below, where the storm had been. In a flash, a white shape sped over the edge, the air dragon braking sharply, to land with impeccable finesse and impressive swiftness, equidistant to the other two. The Grey Prince's reaction was to drop the stun, and in one hasty motion, slam his free left forelimb down, activating a rune embedded into the stone. A dim red shield of his own sprang up, the bubble large enough to protect Mordred but little else, and he kept his claws pressed to the glowing symbol, feeding his magic into it to.

Expecting someone else? Sebby ambled casually across and tapped the barrier with a claw, dragging it across the surface, bright red sparks emitting as the tip clashed with the bubble. Kaia and Nero are dead, as are your wardens. Your sanctuary is broken. This is a neat trick, but it cannot hold forever.

It will not need to. Mordred regarded him with a mixture of condescension and hatred from within his magical shell. You do not know my house, nor the Conclave. We have endured worse.

Surrender yourself and the Fear, and you may live. The humans are kind to prisoners. The terms he offered were fair, though the air dragon knew they would not be accepted. Otherwise there are no guarantees.

No surrendering! Araziah leapt up, wings beating rapidly as he rose to hover just over the tower, looking down on the Grey Prince. He must DIE!

He exhaled, a cone of fire blasting against the top of the buffer. Beneath, the Grey Prince gazed up, unconcerned, the breath attack not affecting his ability to sustain the defence. It was just as he told Sebby; he did not need to do this forever, just for long enough, except-

-the heat was growing.

The colour of Araziah's blaze shifted through the spectrum, the fever rising dramatically, until it reached white, then blue.

But, it didn't stop.

Blue became a whitened brightness, laced with zigzags of violet, which transitioned yet again into shifting fringes of faint purple, the magical essence of it rendering a hue that would not normally be seen, but ... the temperature.

The purity of it was unbearable.

Mordred had not seen any dragon breathe a flame like this.

A haunting realisation came to him that Araziah's claim to have burned Thyndorag to death was in no way a lie. The rain on his defences was hurting, and with a blooming sense of panic, he felt it begin to outpace his aegis, overpowering what he provided to reinforce.

I AM TRUE FIRE! Araziah's voice was flush with anger and the seething rawness of his rage, his attack unabating and extremely potent. KNOW IT AND DESPAIR!

Then, from outside the walls, there came a loud sound; a shattering crash, like breaking glass and the roar of another dragon. Sebby's attention was drawn, and he saw the closest of the Order's projectors lying smashed in ruin on the ground to the west of the Austral Tower. A voluminous pall of smoke billowed about a flying shape, which was lifting from a dive attack to the air above the Occident Tower, at least two hundred feet above them.

A segment of the shield above flickered and vanished, the source removed.

The smoke eased, revealing the form of an enormous grey dragon, an elder, and his voice boomed down from above.


Father! In one motion, Mordred let go of the rune, and activated the tower's boost. He streaked up, his wings snapping fully open, and then around, powering past toward the Corridor. The elder waited only a moment for his son to go ahead, his gaze daring Sebby and Araziah to follow and try him, and then he too turned, the whoosh of his flight fading away as they both entered the Corridor.


Araziah's control broke, his acrimony at the quarry denied and Fear escaping finally causing him to snap. He turned, and directing his conflagration elsewhere, he unleashed it upon the structures around him. Sebby jumped free, extricating himself from danger, and climbing in the air he watched. The sight was fascinating and alarming, and the red dragon strafed the towers with the destroying devouring power of true fire. Enabled by his wrath, the walls and towers were melting, stone and and metal magical fortification no equal, as Araziah laid waste to the citadel of the Seventh House.

Still advertising for a beta -- check the end notes for the previous chapter (or my forum) for details.

Some more story lore available too -- this time, it's character profiles! Have a look here, if you're curious.

Well, the sanctuary may be broken, but a certain divine artifact has escaped -- and this is a BIG problem. What do you think will happen next, dear readers? Comments, questions, stray thoughts, theorising; all are welcome, and I definitely encourage it. Let me know what you think ... please? :)

Thank you for reading Spirit of Fire.

Copyright © 2017 Stellar; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 19
  • Love 14
  • Wow 2
  • Angry 1
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Story Discussion Topic

Open Club · 42 members · Last active

A fan club for Stellar to chat about his stories

You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

Thanks for this very cool story and extra lore. Cool new skills Torsten has, but I'm still wondering if he can do magic or only see/activate pre-existing magic.

  • Love 2
Link to comment
6 minutes ago, Sweetlion said:

Thanks for this very cool story and extra lore. Cool new skills Torsten has, but I'm still wondering if he can do magic or only see/activate pre-existing magic.


Torsten has not done anything magical himself. He has perceived magic; what was in Sebby's ring -- the enchantment that activated the lightning blade -- and in other objects, evident in his statement that the fire pit at the Orient Tower's base had a defensive magical enchantment of some sort on it, and the walls of the tower itself contained something magical that he thought has been added to fortify it. He can also 'see' the inherent magic in dragons, apparently, and while he didn't mention the sentinel fire dragon's signature, he definitely noticed the 'magical truth' within both Viktor and the enhanced Sebby. He has also used his power as the seer -- precognition -- though in a particularly human way, which is to say, by predicting enemy movement in battle through a direct visual analogue. On top of that, he has received more detailed information, such as what Xander was going to do, and that Lucy would die by immolation if she didn't immediately run.


So ... has he performed any feats where he manipulates magic? No, not at all. Has he been the seer?




He's done a brilliant job.

  • Like 3
  • Love 1
Link to comment

Still patiently waiting for each update, loving them as they come and totally invested into the story. A really great job as usual!

  • Like 1
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
7 hours ago, Avaloch said:

Still patiently waiting for each update, loving them as they come and totally invested into the story. A really great job as usual!


Thank you for reading! I'm glad you're enjoying it :)

  • Love 1
Link to comment

It was going so well and then the escape.  I hope Lucy and the rest got out before Araziah’s little temper tantrum.   It also sounds like the gray prince may have a little coup for himself against Michael.  Thanks for such a great chapter and looking forward to more. 

  • Like 2
  • Love 1
Link to comment
5 hours ago, glennish said:

It was going so well and then the escape.  I hope Lucy and the rest got out before Araziah’s little temper tantrum.   It also sounds like the gray prince may have a little coup for himself against Michael.  Thanks for such a great chapter and looking forward to more. 

Well, Araziah's anger was not directed at any particular remaining individuals -- all the Conclave's dragons had been killed, with the exception of Morvalzîr -- and so the Order and associated figures had easy chance to get out of his way. He was more making good on his promise to Kaia -- remember he told her that he would see her die and 'this place' destroyed. So here he is, destroying away in a fit of enraged pique because he was denied his real target.

Curious statement about the Grey Prince. What makes you think there could be a coup happening? Apart from the ambiguity of Mordred's title, I suppose -- is there another reason? Do you suspect perhaps that he might not take the Fear and knowledge of the counter-incantation to his cousin and sire, and instead do something else with it?

  • Love 1
Link to comment

Exceptional writing of the battle sequences, and it flowed beautifully.  The arrogance of youth on display so vividly but even though the artifact was lost, with Torsten's new gift, I feel all is not lost.  

  • Love 1
Link to comment
4 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Exceptional writing of the battle sequences, and it flowed beautifully.  The arrogance of youth on display so vividly but even though the artifact was lost, with Torsten's new gift, I feel all is not lost.  

Thank you so much! It's fair to say that the chapter end is particularly bad, but as you say, all is definitely not lost.

  • Love 1
Link to comment

I guess Lucy redeemed herself, but I still don't care for her personality!  That's ok, not everyone on a team has to like each other, they just have to work well together to be successful.  It looks like it's going to be a showdown between Michael, Mordred, the elder and our merry band of heroes

  • Love 1
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..