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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 - 7. Original Rift

The walk back to the apartment felt more than twice as long as it actually was. It wasn't that he was travelling any slower than he normally did, nor that he had taken a different route. It was all because of what had happened earlier that afternoon, and how much it occupied his thoughts; how much he was obsessing over it.

Theo did not know what to do.

He was angry at himself for speaking out of turn, for admitting his complicity in greater events. There was an apprehension over the possibility of failure, disgrace and isolation. There was disgust at himself for showing a perceived weakness and allowing its display. Lastly, there was an odd clinging dread that he would ultimately be rejected, but strangest and most disturbing of all: a peculiar and inexplicable fear over the way Torsten had looked at him.

It was somewhere between hurt and confused.

The sight had evoked a powerful and unexpected reaction within him.

He didn't want Torsten to feel that way ever again.

He wanted to make it right, but he didn't know how.

He was so preoccupied he didn't notice who was waiting outside the apartment door in the stairwell, even as he was fiddling with the keys in the lock.


He started at the voice, almost dropping the keys, and turned. The visitor stood from where he was sitting, near the bottom of the stairs to the floor above, and strolled casually across to lean on the wall next to the door.

"Oh. It's you."

The man in the suit gave a smile that was barely lukewarm. "It's past time for us to talk, Theo."

"I- ... I didn't want to say anything unless I had something to say."

"Ah, but that is why I am curious enough to be here, now, in person, as it were." The tone was soothing, but Theo knew this was the soft side, and that the apparent fraternity of his older comrade could be traded for a hard edge at any second. It was simply how he was. "You have been silent for longer than I anticipated." He paused a moment, the afternoon daylight glinting off the lapel pins, a handsome impassiveness coaxing out Theo's explanation. "So, what have you to tell me?"

His grip tightened on the keys, and he withdrew them from the lock, standing straighter, an attempt at self-confidence to fortify his justification and guard his motives. "Well, uh, he is close to trusting me, and soon-"

"Close?" The look was one of disbelief. "Weeks have gone, and this is all you have to tell me?" He gave a shrugging flick of the hand in dismissive irritation, eyebrows raised, as if to ask why this task was so untimely and slow. "Charm and seduce him, compel him, twist his perceptions until you have what we seek; whatever method you choose, I care not, but ... get it done. Nothing requires such delay, unless-" He paused again, and there was something Theo did not want to see, not in this one's expression: realisation. "Unless you have an infatuation with this boy. Unless you have developed ... feelings ... for him."

Theo had never felt so cornered, never so threatened by one of his own. There was a desperation to it that was foreign and unnerving. "I don't want to hurt him to get what is required! He doesn't deserve th-"

"Deserve?" The word was laden with disdain. "Does the lamb deserve the teeth of the lion? Does the dragon deserve the cession of his world to men? Does fire deserve submission to treachery and well-spoken lies?"

"Please. I want to spare him, that we might find another way to-"

"Listen to me, little one." The man in the suit gripped his shoulder, his voice falling back to low and gentle, even if the message was anything but. "I will indulge this momentary flight of fancy because you are kin, but heed well what I am about to say, for the rest of the Conclave will not have such sympathy for your tardiness. It is this: remember what you are. You are a lord of the natural order, an example of the greatest living force in all history made manifest; greater than our cousins above and below, but more than anything greater than those who surrendered our birthright to ally with the mewling thrall of humanity. You are the heart of power, and he is an insect."

"I- ... I don't- ... this isn't what-"

"Hey, Theo." Another voice came from the stairs below, the newcomer stepping onto the flat. It was Mr Wu, the friendly middle-aged Chinese gentleman from one floor up, carrying groceries to his apartment. He was staring pointedly and disapprovingly at the hand clamped tightly on Theo's shoulder, the tension clearly present. "This guy giving you trouble? You know him?"

The hand left his shoulder immediately, the eyes glaring at the impertinence. Theo felt the raw strength of will focus and impose; a casual display of power much beyond what he could manage himself. The resistance was small, and wholly inadequate to deal with the command that followed.

"Forget what you saw here and begone from my sight."

Mr Wu jolted like he had been slapped. He blanched, clutching the groceries tighter, and wordlessly walked past, eyes wide and forward focused, and without stopping went up to the next floor.

"You understand? Insects." The man in the suit continued, the inconvenience done with. "Cattle. Upjumped primitives with delusions of grandeur drawn from their own bloated self-importance and fueled by the magical agency of the true enemy. Our own kind deserves emotion, be it hate or love, joy or sorrow, but spare no sentiment for the human parasite. When the end has come and our justice is finally done, they will be a slave race. You can have your pick of whatever survives as you please; food, or a plaything, or any trifling amusement a serf can provide, but do not fool yourself that they are worth your concern. Pawns. That is what they are, and all they can ever be."

"I- ... I'm sorry, I just- ... I want to do what's right-"

"Then do as you were asked. Your skill is particular and necessary. Employ it. Embrace your heritage. I will not tell you this again. Do you understand, little one?"

"I ... understand."

The man in the suit nodded, matter-of-fact and indifferent, the acceptance agreeable enough.


With not a word more, he turned and strolled off down the stairs, in moments out of sight. Theo turned again to the door, inserted the key, twisted, opened and closed it, and promptly leaned back, sliding down until he was sitting on the floor.

Everything was wrong.

He put his head in his hands and closed his eyes.


"This is ... a lot to take in." My mother sipped her dessert wine, still thinking. We were all at our dining room, my mother and Celeste migrating from next door after my phone call. Lucy was also present, having come at my request, because she was going to get it all from me second-hand anyhow, so I had figured she might as well just hear it direct. The former 'Mrs Sterling' had lost all the worst flaws of her age; not hunched over, not rheumatic, her eyes bright, voice strong, wits very apparent. Her full reintroduction to us was as one Celeste Rothberg-Cartier, who seemed to be much less the doddery-grandma alias, and far more Minerva McGonagall reinterpreted as an undercover American dowager. My new impression of her was that she was unafraid to speak her mind, dignified, stern but fair, sharp-tongued, and with a low tolerance for stupidity. Though, I still didn't know exactly what she was doing and why she just happened to be living next door to us, but one thing was certain: I was going to get answers.

"Your son and Lucy can both testify to this 'tall tale' being true, but I would like to convince you fully. Seeing is believing, as they say, so I brought a prop with me." Celeste stood, walked to a cupboard and grabbed a bowl. She took it to the sink, half filled it with water and then placed it on the table in front of us. From a pocket, she pulled a tiny drawstring bag, and carefully she extracted what looked like a marble from within. It was a translucent blue, with opalescent veins flowing through the interior. "Now, observe."

With a theatrical flourish she held it over the bowl, then dropped it in the water.

Exactly where the marble struck, the water turned to ice, which spread very rapidly outward from the point of impact until the entirety was solid, the frozen mass expanding up the bowl's sides. Before we could react, Celeste held up her hand to indicate the demonstration wasn't done. She plucked the marble from where it was stuck in the surface, snatching it free. Equally as fast, the ice reverted, liquefying, and in a second it was back to being a bowl of water again.

Lucy's eyes were wide. "Wow. That was damn cool, pun fully intentional."

"That's amazing." Mom pointed at the marble. "It's magic?"

"It is. This little bauble isn't good for more than a parlour trick, but as you can see, the supernatural exists and magic is real. However, it's not something we can acquire so easily. It is a gift, and it always comes from one place. Rather, that should be: one species."

"Dragons," I muttered.

"Yes." Celeste nodded. "Dragons. Living on Earth for thousands of years, hidden among us, appearing just like us. Natalia, this is no fiction, as much as it sounds like one. The 'boy' in the room down your hall is all the evidence you should need."

"That, uh, young man, is actually a ... dragon?" Mom blinked, and took another sip, wearing the same 'problem solving' face that she used when work threw her a curveball. "Just to be clear, again, you are talking about the mythical beast that flies and breathes fire?"

"The very same." The older woman agreed. "While it is tempting to think of them as simply an advanced breed of animal, that view is critically naive. They are sophisticated, powerful, and highly intelligent, in many ways more so than us. Their mastery over magic and the complexity and intricacy of how they perceive everything makes them, one for one, the most deadly life form on the planet. Even their smallest and weakest should not be underestimated. Never take them lightly, because they are dangerous."

"I- ... I want to know more," I told her. "A lot more."

"Well, I shan't give you the entire compendium's worth of information, because we would be here for hours, but I can fix the worst of your bewilderment. What would you prefer I start with?" She rolled the marble casually between her fingers. "Do you want to know about their biology and social structure? Abilities? Their history and lore?"

"Lore!" Lucy's pick was immediate, and so quick that I didn't have a chance to argue. "It has to be something amazing. What the fuck is their backstory?"

"Lucy! Language, please."

"Sorry, Ms W." She had the decency to look sheepish at the scolding. "Didn't mean to be rude."

"Backstory?" Celeste chuckled, then abruptly sighed, her mood turning more serious in a moment. "This is the part where you may later regret asking, because the explanation is ... bleak, and even more difficult to swallow than what you already know. It would be right at home in a dark high-fantasy novel."

"I've just learned that all these fictional things aren't fictional. If I can accept that, then I can accept what you're going to tell me." Mom shrugged. "We all can, right?"

"Right." I conceded, and Lucy echoed my agreement.

"Well, where to begin?" Celeste thought for a second before starting in earnest. "I said 'one species' before, but that's not completely accurate. Dragons don't have a single type any more than we humans have a single ethnic grouping. In fact, their race, too, is defined by the opposing divisions within it. They came from exactly four distinct origins. Those four emerged from the magical accumulation and crystallisation of the Earth's primary elements into physical forms."

"Primary elements?" I thought I knew what she meant, but wanted to make sure. "I'm guessing you don't mean the atomic elements, but more like the ones the ancient Greeks talked about?"

"Yes, that's right. The four basic pillars of the natural world were literally embodied into living creatures; one each for earth, water, air and ... fire. Immortal, colossal, unimaginably powerful. There is no other way to describe them than the obvious: they are gods."

"Gods?" I whispered.

"Gods," she confirmed. "Each spawned an entire brood of their own, made of their essence and built in their likeness. Those children are the dragons, and they worship their creators as deities. They serve as faithfully as they can, and they name their patrons as Spirits of the respective elemental realms. For a long time, this is how it stayed, but-"

"-but something messed it up." Lucy was rapt, caught in the story. "Something crappy always happens."

"Yes, well, what happened is something that we still don't fully know the details of. It occurred a very long time ago, before humans were around. Few dragons of any sort are willing to discuss their ancient history in detail with us. When they do, the story will differ between types; for water it was entirely justified, for air a necessary struggle, for earth a reluctant calling, and for fire? It was an unspeakable betrayal. What we do know for certain is that something caused the incarnation of flame to go completely mad, and attack his siblings. His rage made him nearly unstoppable, so the other three did what they had to."

"What was that?"

"They banded together and killed the Spirit of Fire."

Killed him?

"That's possible?" I stared at her. "To kill something ... divine?"

"Possible, but incredibly difficult. Though, the real question is: how did they make sure he stayed dead? For something so strong, any defeat is temporary and true death is nigh impossible. They are titanic sources of magic, and they are not subject to the same rules as everything else. Their inherent powers of renewal can restore a broken shell to perfection, because these mystical beings are bound to the physical world itself. So," Celeste took a deep breath, "they unbound him."

"Unbound? Uh, they ... let him go?" Lucy blinked. "Kicked him out?"

"The Spirit of Water invoked a magical rite upon the vanquished body of their brother before it could revive, that banished his soul to the shadow realm, a place outside reality where he would stay eternally formless, and unable to affect the physical world in any direct way. You could think of it as a sort of purgatory for their kind. His remains were then destroyed and they believed it was over, except, in the chaos of his fall and before the rite began, the most trusted servant of flame stole a fragment off the corpse. That one piece escaped the rite of banishment, and within it a sliver of the Spirit of Fire remained, anchoring him to the living world. This artifact was thereafter named the Fear, because of the threat it represented."

"What happened to it?" I asked. "Did they do something with it?"

"I want you to understand how significant this event was for their race." Though she was speaking to all of us, Celeste's attention was on me specifically; more than just explaining everything to my mother, she was making sure that I was aware of what I had stumbled into. "It began a rift in their species that has never healed, and has pitted fire against the other three for countless years. The Fear has been hunted, along with the fire dragons who protect it, for millennia. They kept possession of it for all that time, and even after humans came along and began to spread across the planet, they continued to run, learning how to take our shape and hide within our societies just as their cousins did; fleeing what they saw as persecution by their own kind.

"It was in Europe during the 15th century that the water dragons made contact with a group of Germanic princes and sought help from humanity in finding the missing artifact. An agreement was made to cooperate, though they were clear to those princes that their existence had to stay undisclosed. Apart from a few odd encounters over the centuries, they had managed to keep the growing human population unaware of their presence. They did not desire the greater public become embroiled in a primeval war that began long before we were even here, as they knew if everything emerged into the open, it would only serve to escalate what was happening and kill a great many people.

"So, a secret society called the Noble Order was created to aid them. Working together proved to be most effective; there are certain things that people have a knack for that dragons were not so adept at, at least in that time. A couple of decades after the founding of the Order, the Fear was traced to a location formerly in the Kingdom of Bohemia that was lost in a war to Matthias of Hungary. In 1483, at the town of Brno in the March of Moravia, we disrupted a private ritual and attempted to seize it. During the violence of the fighting, it was shattered into nine pieces.

"Their cultists fled yet again, escaping with some of those pieces, though we also managed to acquire some. Over the last five centuries we have been trying to recover all of them, so they can be destroyed and the conflict put to an end. The good news is that by the beginning of the 21st century, the Order had five of the nine. Two more are believed to be completely lost, swallowed by history, with nobody on either side knowing the whereabouts. The eighth was seized here, in the United States, in 2004 during a well-planned raid. The fire dragons no longer hold any of their precious fragments, but there is still the final ninth piece left misplaced out there, and everyone is searching for it."

"If that's the good news," Mom wondered, "what's the bad?"

"The bad news is that while they have lost control of the artifact, it is only one half of the problem. You see, they need two things to achieve their goals, and very recently, roughly a month ago, they managed to acquire the other component: a copy of the incantation used in the ritual of banishment. With this, they intend to create a counter-incantation."

I had a feeling I knew where this was heading. It made me really uncomfortable to the point of vague queasiness, but I wanted to hear Celeste confirm what I was thinking. "If they get both of those two, uh ... what will happen?"

"They would do what they only dared dream of for so long. An individual, one of the strongest of their kind, would infuse themselves with the sliver of their master's soul contained within the Fear. The counter-incantation would be invoked, and the banishment undone. The formless would then return to the physical world, and the Spirit of Fire would be reborn into the host body, alive again and free."


We all stared at her, silent.


This is ... nothing like what I was expecting.

"Wait a second." Lucy held up her hands in a stop motion, never one to let a solemn moment pass without bringing everyone back to earth. "So this is what's going on? You're telling us that they are trying to resurrect an insane fire dragon god? How can any of his litter of flying toasters think this is a good idea? I mean, sure, he's their lord and saviour, or whatever, but ... you said he was crazy, right? Won't this end up being as bad for them as it will be for us?"

"Your observational skills are on point as usual, Lucy." Drily acknowledged, Celeste smiled, and then continued. "His brood were not always the zealots they are today. Our knowledge of their culture is incomplete, but one of the things that is well understood is that all of them hear whispers of his thoughts from where he is confined. His madness affects them, and it has changed them, exaggerating the more negative extremes of their personalities. Making them prone to their worst impulses; quicker to anger, to hate, and merciless, ruthless. They have a ruling council called the Conclave that is central to their efforts, and there are few fire dragons who resist the urges and refuse to abide by the Conclave's wishes. The odds are against them, it is true, but they have kept faith during this long struggle for one reason."

"What is it?"

"Prophecy." She stated it simply, matter-of-fact. "It was foretold they would succeed and their master would return. An approximate time period was even given for when it would occur, and also for the birth of the avatar-to-be. They believe it is inevitable, and so do some of our allies. Not everyone though. I don't accept it as being 'destiny' and neither do many of my colleagues." Her frame, slight as it was, tensed, the lines on her face growing harder. "I can't and I won't. They must not win."

"Uh, Celeste," I gestured nervously to the hall, toward the spare bedroom, "the avatar, it couldn't be ... him, could it?"

"Oh." She blinked, not expecting this question. "Uh, no. The avatar is meant to be born in the modern era, but quite some time ago. The target will have to be older than him. This brings us back to the beginning, however." Celeste clasped her hands primly in front, nodding thoughtfully. "Your injured guest is remarkable. He is the first fire type to be born outside his own kind in more than three centuries. He is young, but from what I have heard, he is shaping up to be an impressive example of his breed. He also represents an opportunity for the Order to learn more about our foe, and even, potentially, use him against the Conclave, if he is willing. That part is essential -- the willingness, I mean -- because he has the potential to go the opposite way too."

"What do you want us to do?" I glanced at Mom, and she smiled back, inclining her head slightly, a subtle indication for me to continue. "I mean, I know I discovered him and fed him for the first few weeks, but I don't want anything to happen that's going to put people at risk because I don't know what I'm doing."

"Well," she mused, "I could house him, though you have already interacted with him. He knows you and has some kind of a bond because you were present at his hatching, so it would make sense to keep familiar company close, at least until-"

"We'll take him." Mom interrupted her, and both Lucy and I sat back in surprise. "So long as he can learn to respect me and my son, he can stay. Everything you've said is still a lot to take in, but I believe you."

"Mom, you know, we don't have to-"

"Torsten, honey." She reached across the table and took my hand, squeezing it. "Yes, we do. This may be new to me, and there may be risks involved, but we aren't alone. Besides, what kind of person would I be asking someone injured to leave?"

"Well, if you're comfortable, I think it can be accommodated." Celeste looked at me. "I would have to speak with him once he is awake and healed, to make sure certain boundaries aren't crossed. He should be healthy within a day or two; they can regenerate faster than we can and survive wounds that we wouldn't."

I was about to reply when her cellphone began ringing, and she held it up to see the number. "Oh good gracious, I forgot that he said he would be here after. We'll have to continue this another time. There's a friend I need to speak with outside. Please excuse me!"

Celeste stood hurriedly and made a swift pace through the lounge and to the front door. She had been gone no more than ten seconds, when a thought popped into my mind.

A thought that I knew I shouldn't just leave hanging.

There are other things I need to talk with her about -- and things to tell her.

"Um, I need to ask something else. I'm going to see if I can catch her before she goes home. I won't be long, I promise."

I stood and followed her path outside.


In the early evening light, the lone figure opened the front door of the manor home. In a neutral white gown of soft flowing material, she walked into the lobby area and was greeted by a manservant. It was always the same; the tastes not changing from breed to breed. A love of beautiful artistry, opulence, affluence, the trappings of ego and authority.

Sometimes, not so different from humanity.

"I'm sorry, I wasn't aware any guests were expected." The manservant bowed, courteous. "Please, come this way. I will inform him you are here."

Wordless, she followed him to the left, through a set of double doors into a grand drawing room. The manservant closed them behind her, bowed again, then vanished out a side door.

For two minutes there was silence, then the double doors at the opposite end of the room opened. Through it came four retainers, body-armour clad, automatic rifles in hand, who split into pairs and moved to either side. Then was a stately figure; lean, handsome, hazel eyes, aquiline nose, short sandy-brown hair. He wore black slacks, a white dress shirt, loafers and a lavish embroidered evening robe, red and black with a cream trim, open at the front.

As soon as he stepped over the threshold, the same manservant swiftly drew the doors closed behind, leaving them alone in the room.

"I do not recognise you." The man did not approach further, but stood front and centre between his honour guard. She did not move, either. "Guests cannot find me without invitation, so you must have another purpose. Identify yourself."

"You are Silas Callahan?" She was soft-spoken, emotion strangely absent from the words. "Elder and sire of the Fourth House of the Conclave?"

His eyes narrowed, his head tilting back as he pinned her with an arrogant glare. "If you have business with me, state your name and show your affiliation. An inability to comply means you will be leaving," he gestured to his retainers and their weaponry, "one way or another."

She smiled.

"The assassins failed their task, Silas."

His eyes went wide.


In unison, the retainers raised their weapons, no signal needed. Before they could so much as orient their guns on her, she lifted her hands from where they were demurely clasped. In a one-two flick of the wrist from both left and right, a twisting flurry of blue light launched from her fingers, the dual mess of shifting lines shooting at the aggressors. Both pairs were struck by it, sent flying into the walls, all four slumping unconscious to the floor.

At the same time he was reaching out his right hand, to a candle sconce on the wall. The little fire of the lit candle leaped to his palm, in a second growing to the size of a basketball, and then he thrust his arm out, a torrent pouring forth as if it were a flamethrower. In defence, her left hand rose to block it, the tirade barely shielded as his elemental fury fought with the shield of her will.

"Then I will finish it!"

The inborn magical power of his heritage was potent and he did not let up, yet neither did she wither. He pushed harder, stronger, the intensity and his anger heightening, and her hand was forced back closer to her body. Then, in a repudiation that was horrifying with its ease, she focused. The neutral white of her gown, her hair, her eyes; it deepened, darkened, shifted along the spectrum, everything turning blue. With a single push of the hand, fingers splayed, the flame went out, an invisible frigid strike extinguishing it all the way to his very fingertips.

"No!" He shouted. "You come to your DOOM!"

With both hands, he summoned fire again from two more of the candle sconces, beginning the assault anew. With twice as much wielded, twice as much concentration, he drew upon his power and put it forth into attack. The Lady Shiba began to advance, her hand still out in a bulwark of defence. His rage and disbelief grew and grew, the flames an incinerating salvo, yet she continued closer and closer, until, as she was about to reach him, there was a second push and ...

... it went out, along with all the candles in the room.

The air temperature lowered, a chilling ambience falling upon them.

"Your true name is Silarion."

His eyes dilated in horror at her words, his hands dropping to his sides.

"You- ... you broke them." He rasped. "You are no elder!"

"I will break you." Calmly, she reached the same hand out and gripped his face, jaw to temple, cheek to ear. "Relinquish your mind."

"Nnnnnggh." He grunted, the muscles of his jaw and neck taut, his limbs motionless. "I am n-not ... so weak."

She did not reply.

"N-never! Nngh! I ... reject you!"

"Serve my intentions." Her eyes glowed, and the pressure only grew. "Submit."

"I will not." Blood began to trickle from his nose, dripping over his lips. His voice wavered, the coarse scratchiness accentuating. "Your priestess is- ... is ours. The time c-comes. When he ret-" He stopped a second, more blood dribbling out the corner of his mouth, drops of it oozing from the edges of the eyes. "-returns ... he will destroy you."

"If you will not yield," she whispered, "then you must die."

With a final jerk, he stopped moving. Red was now flowing freely in thickening rivulets, and Silarion went lax, falling out of her grasp and onto the floor.


Curious, the Lady Shiba turned her hand over, watching the droplets follow the contours of her skin, inscrutable and unmoved. One was finished with, but there were others left. There was no reason to stop now.

She had work to do.


As soon as I reached the curb, I spotted Celeste standing on it, opposite her property. An old black Cadillac was parked there, and the owner was leaning against the side smoking a cigarette and talking to her.

"Oh, Torsten!" Celeste caught sight of my arrival and motioned me closer. "Come here, I'd like you to meet someone. This is a friend of mine who is, a, uh, government official, working with the Order."

"You can call me Agent Crawley." He was wearing a black trenchcoat, average height, slightly pudgy, and forgettable in appearance except for rather fine cheekbones, and a rough voice. "You're Terry's grandson?"

"Uh, yeah. Hey... wait! You knew him?"

"We both did." Celeste gave a look, full of nostalgia. "Friends for years."

Crawley nodded. "Respectable man, yer grandfather. We all worked for the Order, or used to, at least." He took a drag. "Got yer mother's looks, I'd say. Good thing too."

She laughed. "Definitely has. For the best, no doubt."

Um, what? Yeah, okay.

"Sure, whatever," I mumbled, "but I need to tell you some things, after ... all I've heard."

She looked at me, querying, and so did he.

"I think ... there are, um, two. Yeah. There are two of ... them, hidden at my school. Or there were, I don't know."

"Two?" Crawley frowned, his attention settling on me a little more forcefully. "Ya sure? It's easy to be mistaken, or ta think they're somethin' else."

"I'm sure," I assured him. "One is a student, who has been trying to befriend me, and another one is the new guidance counsellor."

"Mmm," grunted Crawley. A look passed between him and Celeste.

"We'll need to look into that." She concluded the thought quickly and without fuss, then pivoted directly to a new subject. "I suppose you don't have any idea how that injury came about, do you?"

It was Crawley who answered. "Course he don't." The man blew a cloud of tobacco smoke. "Yer boy was shot by a couple redneck hunters. You know what he did to them? Cooked them alive. Ain't nothin' left but charcoal and ash."

It was hunters that did it?

"We don't exactly like this scenario, as you can imagine," Celeste shook her head, "but this is a fact that I didn't bring up in front of Natalia. I don't want to scare her. Always stay wary, Torsten, even when you think everything is fine. They will kill without a second thought if they feel threatened. They can manipulate minds and feelings, sometimes without the victim even knowing."

"Just how old is yer charge, anyhow?" Crawley interjected.

"A little over a month. Why?"

"Just a month?" He gave a low whistle. "That's damn impressive."

"Record-breaker in the making." She nodded to Crawley. "This could be a real blessing in disguise, don't you think?"

"Hold up, what are you talking about?"

"Maturity. They grow rapidly in the youngest phase of life. We have learned that the quicker they pass through this initial phase, the larger they will end up as an adult. Your hatchling matured to adolescence faster than any we have on record and is on track to end up as a very big boy when he's full grown."

"Uh, just how big do you mean?"

"Kid," muttered Crawley, "ya really don't want ta know. Seeing a damn python large enough to squash city hall is an experience not worth having."

"I don't want to be rude, but we need to talk business in private." Celeste nodded to her companion. "You'll have to excuse us, Torsten. We're about to head in."

"I should too," I told her. "I said I'd just be a minute and I've let you know about the things going on at school."

"If you need advice, or help, I'm right next door."

"Thanks." I waved to them, making my way back through the gate and to the front door. Both Lucy and my mother were still sitting in the kitchen talking when I got inside. Lucy loved her as much as she did her own, and was very respectful; one of the few adults that seemed to qualify for any sort of reverence from her. She tried to get my attention as I passed through, but I had an urge to check on the guest, so I didn't linger and went straight to the spare bedroom.

He was sleeping still, the same as earlier.

I sat on the side of the bed, carefully, and looked him over.

The wound was fairly clean from when I had sterilised it earlier, and he seemed to at least be properly resting, despite the pain. I took the opportunity to examine him, just to get a good look at how he appeared as one of us.

Flowing red hair, pale skin. His features were the same style of 'pleasing to the eye' as Theo, symmetrical and finely proportioned, except somehow both softer and harder at once. Softer, being that the physical signs of masculinity were less pronounced; I had considered Theo to be 'handsome' whereas this one was better described as 'beautiful'. Harder, because there was an unflinching attitude to him that I could feel even when he was lying unconscious.

But ... this isn't a boy, remember? This is something else that looks like us, and can act like us, but it’s NOT human. I pinched the bridge of my nose, eyes shut, sighing in exasperation. How can any of this be real? Gods? Magic? Dragons?

Every day was a bit more weird than the one before.

I opened my eyes, about to stand and head back to the kitchen, but ... his eyes were open too.

I froze.

He's awake.

They were just as human in appearance as the rest of him, except the irises were red. The same as his hair; that rich, lively colour. We both stayed still, staring at one another, then he pulled his good right arm from underneath the covers. Sitting up, sheets scrunching as his torso came upright, the hair cascading like silk over his bare shoulders, he reached out. With absolutely no regard for my personal space, the hand lightly grasped the left side of my head.

The sensation was invasive and unpleasant. An electrical buzzing filled my skull and I could feel something touching my mind; an intrusion taking knowledge, leaching it out of my brain like a tick sucking blood. It was mildly hurtful and I couldn't move to stop him, but after about ten seconds, it faded, and he let go of me, though he did not lie back down in the bed.

"Your language." His voice was low, calm, a refined version of my own. "English. It is so ... clumsy."

Oh my god.

"You are Torsten," he murmured it, soft but clear, "and I am Araziah."

I imagine most of the previous six chapters are taking on a whole new meaning now. Plenty of scenes where the current chapter's hindsight is putting what's been into perspective. ^_^

Hmm, that 'man in the suit' sure is a busy bee, isn't he?

Oh, and it's my great and mischief-filled pleasure to introduce you to Araziah!

As always, likes, comments, and any discussion is welcome!

Copyright © 2017 Stellar; All Rights Reserved.
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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. 

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Sigh, this one chapter so far began justifying the emotional frustration endured reading all that paranoia and despair filled business in the earlier chapters.

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8 hours ago, Avaloch said:

An awesome chapter with so much answers and yet so much more questions to be answered.


I guess Shiba is the Spirit of Water since Silas did mention that "when he returns, he will destroy you." I presume that the other 3 spirits will be the target for the Spirit of Fire.


Thank you! I'm glad you are enjoying it.


I've already commented enough of the identity of Lady Shiba, so I'll abstain from saying anything further on that count. However, the presumption of your final sentence is *somewhat* correct. The Spirit of Fire has absolutely no love for the Spirit of Water, not least because of the central part the latter played in his banishment, but also simply because they are diametric elemental forces that are polar opposites and do not mix. The other two siblings, however, are not regarded in such an extreme way by their fallen brother, and those relationships are a little more nuanced. Earth and Air were, more-or-less, forced to choose sides, and previously existing feelings made this choice a terrible one. For them, this is a complicated and arduous matter.

Edited by Stellar
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Cool, so many questions... Agree that Shiba is the embodiment of Water/Ice, and probably the most active faction since we already saw water/ice dragons. But where are the air and earth dragons, and the Spirits? An what is special about Torsten? and Lucy, she resisted mental manipulation from a dragon? Is Celeste also a Dragon, she could do Magic... Will Araziah be free of the Fire craziness, since is outside their control and near Torsten? Can't wait to know more.


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An awesome chapter as always. Thanks for the much wanted answers. Looking forward for more answers in the coming chapters.

Man, can't wait for the next one! I want to learn more about Araziah. Is he going to be as bad as everyone's thinking? And what would Theo choose to do?

Keep it up man, can't wait for the next one :)

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20 minutes ago, boiwonder said:

An awesome chapter as always. Thanks for the much wanted answers. Looking forward for more answers in the coming chapters.

Man, can't wait for the next one! I want to learn more about Araziah. Is he going to be as bad as everyone's thinking? And what would Theo choose to do?

Keep it up man, can't wait for the next one :)


Thank you! The story should be moving along at a good pace, there isn't a lot of time wasted with inconsequential events :) The answers will come, though feel free to ask non-plot-spoilery questions if you have any.


Araziah is going to be a very ... interesting character, for the audience, I think. It's possible you may love him, but it's equally possible you may hate him completely; I doubt there will be much middle ground. Theo! Poor Theo, always getting into very uncomfortable situations.


Chapter 8 is under production, though I can't give an ETA yet for deployment.

Edited by Stellar
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So happy that we got some of the backstory, I for one was really needing it.  I feel sorry for Theo, and I have a feeling his ultimate decision will effect how some of this ends up.  Great job writing and the pacing was better for me with this chapter.  On to the next one...

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As much as I am enjoying this story, it is complex and convoluted, and my brain was having a hard time keeping some characters straight and deciding who is "good" and who is "bad." I have just finished rereading chapters one through seven. Between the re-read and the reveals in chapter seven, I feel like understand and enjoy it even more. I look forward to reading the rest of the story and doing a better job of "getting it." Thanks for sharing this terrific story!

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3 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

As much as I am enjoying this story, it is complex and convoluted, and my brain was having a hard time keeping some characters straight and deciding who is "good" and who is "bad." I have just finished rereading chapters one through seven. Between the re-read and the reveals in chapter seven, I feel like understand and enjoy it even more. I look forward to reading the rest of the story and doing a better job of "getting it." Thanks for sharing this terrific story!


Perhaps I need to leave a warning somewhere that my writing tends towards complex nuanced storytelling that may take a while to fully make sense. With regard to 'good' and 'bad', I'm of the firm belief that, whilst there may be some characters who can easily be classified as such, the majority will be some intermediate shade of grey, with corresponding flaws and foibles based upon their motivations and intentions. In any case, I'm glad the re-reading helped you clarify! There's plenty left to come after this (six more, at the time of this writing) with new chapters in production, and if you should misunderstand anything, or if the detail is confusing, please remember you can ask any questions in the comments here, or in the Spirit of Fire discussion thread on my forum if you choose.


Thanks for reading and commenting!

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I appreciated the background, but I am glad we received it now and not earlier.  One of the things I enjoy most in your writing is the complex building of characters and suspense.  I have never been the type who peeks at the end of a book, what's the fun in that?  I also like authors to inject some ambiguity into their characters;  I enjoy liking, disliking, loving, and hating the same character throughout a story.  Well done!

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Well, things are getting clearer now but not less complex.

There is one issue troubling me: Why would I have to suppose that the god of fire is THE evil? Fire has been destroyed - almost. Now his disciples try to resurrect him. Is this unfair? Is the war against the fire dragons to be seen as friendly gestures??

Look at the action of Shiba. How coldly she destroyed Silas Callahan, the sire of the Fourth House of the Conclave. (pun intended) - Is that the action of the good ones?

Another thing I came across: When Torsten returned home and found blood all over and then the almost dead boy, we now know as Araziah - I was puzzled by his reaction. I for myself would have immediately started the chain of first aide actions such as calling the ambulance and also the police. So, what did Torsten already know that kept him from doing the obvious (from my prospective) and rather contacting Celeste? Is Torsten a Human after all? Should we see him as half-demon?

Nevertheless, a fantastic chapter! Thank you! 🐊

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5 hours ago, BarkingFrog said:

There is one issue troubling me: Why would I have to suppose that the god of fire is THE evil? Fire has been destroyed - almost. Now his disciples try to resurrect him. Is this unfair? Is the war against the fire dragons to be seen as friendly gestures??

Look at the action of Shiba. How coldly she destroyed Silas Callahan, the sire of the Fourth House of the Conclave. (pun intended) - Is that the action of the good ones?

One thing about my writing (and this is present in the science-fiction as well Spirit of Fire) is that certain 'bad guys' have their own reasons for acting and believe what they do is justified. In this case, consider that Lady Shiba represents one side of a war and that she is simply eliminating the servants of her enemy in what way seems most effective to her. The dragons of the Conclave represent the other side, and they are seeking to resurrect their dead father, who, according to ancient history, attacked everyone.

So, are they justified in their actions? They have committed plenty of crimes themselves in the pursuit of finishing an even greater one, if history is to be believed. The air and earth dragons also participated in the original conflict, and while they have been so far absent from the narrative, they supported water in that confrontation. The information that Celeste provides in this chapter represents the majority belief of many, but you must realise, as always ... it is a tale told from a certain point of view.

The challenge here is understanding the motivations, the why of the matter. If you manage that, you may be able to judge more clearly what is 'good' and what is 'evil' in this regard.

5 hours ago, BarkingFrog said:

Another thing I came across: When Torsten returned home and found blood all over and then the almost dead boy, we now know as Araziah - I was puzzled by his reaction. I for myself would have immediately started the chain of first aide actions such as calling the ambulance and also the police. So, what did Torsten already know that kept him from doing the obvious (from my prospective) and rather contacting Celeste? Is Torsten a Human after all? Should we see him as half-demon?

There is a simple reason for this: Torsten saw the blond shock in Araziah's red hair, and instantly realised the physical characteristics matched the dragon he had been keeping hidden in the shed for the last few weeks. They were one and the same, and he knew it!

So, what to do? If this was an injured person, sure, he would call emergency services and that would make sense.

But a young dragon, even in human form? Absolutely not. How would he explain Araziah's lack of identification, the inexplicable properties of his body that would confuse and confound doctors, not to mention certain aspects of medicine being impossible to use on dragons as you would a person? It would raise more questions than Torsten wanted to answer, and he knew this very well in that moment.

Besides, what could human authorities -- the police, government, etcetera -- actually do for Araziah? In this case, Celeste's employer, the Order, are the experts, and Torsten has the basic understanding that she, at least, has some knowledge of what is going on.

6 hours ago, BarkingFrog said:

Nevertheless, a fantastic chapter! Thank you! 🐊

I'm glad you're enjoying!

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