While I cope with my impending undead complexion, I hope you enjoy this week's installment. Make sure you take time to visit the other bloggers and leave some extra special love for Elaina over in her comments section. Girly had a bad week. Anyway, check out the links, read the story, and leave me a comment about your week or the story or whatever you want to tell me. I like cheesy jokes too. I'll take one of those. ;) *Hugs*
The Prompt This Week:
This week we're using weather as our prompt. Rain, Snow, Thunder, Lightning, Sunshine - anything you like. You have the freedom to use your choice however you please.
Flash Fiction Friday Bloggers:
The Great Mage (Week 9)
Aneris’s fingers slipped over Seth’s armor, grappling for something to hold onto. His fear amplified at the gnashing of teeth and haunting screams surrounding them. Lightning struck the ground mere feet from Fia’s hooves as the horse raced across fiery wasteland. The Ghouls swarmed them by the thousands. They rushed toward Fia—their brutal speed that of an undead, soulless predator. Flames shot from the ground, burning them to ash on the spot. But, there were just too many of them for the fire to make a dent in their ghastly army.
“Aneris, get the pearl!” Seth struck his flaming sword into the pit of bodies with dark sockets for eyes and translucent skin. The metal cut through one ghoul’s neck. Fire sizzled his severed neck and then the whole of his body as his head was lost amongst the crowd.
Adrenaline buzzed within the Mage, making it hard to decipher himself from his magic. It built in his limbs, sung in his veins; it climbed to a point where he couldn’t deny it. He ripped the pearl from his belt and caught a glimpse of its iridescent shimmer against the orange flames. As the sky boomed and the clouds billowed from a seemingly unreachable horizon, Aneris made a brave decision.
“Keep her steady, Seth! I’m going to turn around. I have no idea what this thing will do if I activate it. I don’t want you to get blasted.” He pressed a kiss to Seth’s armor. He feared it might be the last time he would be able to do so.
He closed his eyes. His forehead against the warm metal across Seth’s back, Aneris concentrated on binding himself to the Knight in order to stay on the horse. If he turned around he would have nothing to keep him from falling. His closed eyelids felt heavy. His mouth was filled with an acrid taste that made him smack his lips. His fingers tensed… And then the magic came, invited by his thoughts.
Something cinched around his waist. When Aneris opened his eyes, his cloak flowed forward around him and he faced the oncoming storm of Ghouls behind Fia’s flaming tail. A leather strap secured his waist to Seth’s. The chase ensued from all sides, but the pearl was still in his hand. It glowed. It waited for him. Aneris took a deep breath and held up the pearl. Uttering some hocus pocus wasn’t necessary. The pearl felt his need. It summoned his magic from behind Aneris’s back, pulling his metal rings from their holders.
They circled in the air, spinning and spinning until only a golden ring of light blazed through the darkness. The pearl jerked out of his hand. Aneris howled, thinking it would abandon them to death by these disgusting creatures. Instead the pearl settled mid-air, between the rings of flashing gold that followed Fia. It reminded him of a miniature Saturn, his own little enchanted planet.
“What do you want?” Aneris hissed at the stupid pearl.
Frustrated, he gritted his teeth and slapped his hands on his bouncing thighs. The pearl lit up and the entire magical setup descended with the movement of his hands. Light burst in every direction and the Ghouls began to scream in pain. Aneris gave a gurgled cry of elation and raised his hands. The pearl and his big flying weapon went soaring up, commanded by his fingers. Now that he understood, he felt the tether between his fingertips and the pearl’s magic.
Aneris directed his hands to the right, and like the pearl weapon of light was a part of his body, it shifted into a writhing pit of soul hungry ghouls. Fire licked high in the air, the undead grilled like steaks on a hot summer day. They wailed and wobbled then turned to ash and dust. More of them crawled up from the ground, from their resting places to replace their fallen.
But Aneris now had the means to get them through this place. The White Lady was right, this was the only way they’d survive and he’d paid a very dear price for it. Though he still didn’t understand why he’d had an unexplainable need to venture into Death Valley in the first place. They could have flown, he thought as he cast more deadly light at the demonic creatures. He and Seth could have been safely on the other side by now.
It was then that a black creature parted the smoky clouds in the sky and roared towards them. Inky wings spanned and flapped. Red eyes as big as Aneris’s head churned with hate. Claws the size of butcher knives curled together and Aneris panicked. He raised his hands, bringing the light to the sky, which relinquished their defenses on ground level.
“Dragon!” he screamed to Seth.
Seth slapped at Aneris’s cloak to see over his shoulder. It was the first time he had seen the pearl in action. His eyes widened. Not just at the pure white light that cast across the smoky terrain and the shadowy faces of the Ghouls, but at the foreign Shifter ten times the size of his father. “Impossible. It is only legend,” he shouted.
“The Black Dragon. He’s a fairytale meant to scare Shifter children. It must be a spell, an illusion.” Fire leapt from the Dragon’s throat, missing them by an inch.
Aneris yelped. “That is not an illusion, dammit!” He fried the Ghouls who’d snuck up on Fia’s tail, creating space between the living and the undead. “Get us out of here.” Her fiery tail burst into red hot tendrils. She was pissed.
The Dragon swirled back then dove. “It’s coming back.” Aneris chanced a look to his right. The black structure he’d seen from the cliff was nearing. “There. Go there.” He pointed.
“We’ll be trapped.”
“No. You’re a Shifter. You get up there and talk to it. I’ll circle round with Fia and keep the Ghouls off our backs.” Aneris slashed his hands through the air, feeling his body go numb. The light was still strong as ever, mowing down Ghouls with every flick of his fingers—but he felt the weight of his magic overpowering him, tiring him.
“Are you crazy? He is why the tribes are afraid of Mages. He is a slave to the Black King, possessed by black magic. He won’t listen to me, Aneris!”
Aneris’s heart pounded as he looked up into the eyes of a great beast. Tremors of terror thrust him into a childlike state momentarily. Taking down the Ghouls’ first line once more, Aneris then thrust his hands up, casting the pearl’s light into the Dragon’s eyes. It roared and jerked back into the sky as if an unseen hand had plucked it back into the clouds. But not before Aneris saw those red eyes blink yellow then bleed red again.
“He’s possessed, which means he doesn’t want to be this way, right?”
“We reverse the spell or we die trying. This is why I was sent here, Seth. Why The Gamemaster sent us here—to gain a powerful ally.” Aneris smiled and blasted more Ghouls, his mind clearing of fear. “Go to the temple thingy. Don’t get weak on me now. I know you better than that, Red Knight. You never back down from a challenge.”
“Fine, but your plan sucks.” Seth bared his teeth, his version of a smile in the moment, and steered Fia toward the temple. Lightning hit the top of the structure, painting it in a bluish hue.
Aneris was able to see the carvings in the black marble for the first time. Outlined in the stone was a repetitive pattern of water symbols—simple depictions of a droplet with a swirl in the middle. He frowned. He didn’t have time to dwell on the fact that a water temple was set in the middle of a fire zone. They raced into the open structure, Ghouls hot on their heels. An in-ground, rectangular pool of water sloshed. A thick layer of black film dusted the top, moving with each subtle wave like death made liquid.
Stairs ran to the top of the structure on each side. Seth leaned forward, and jerked Fia’s reins to direct her to right staircase. She slipped here and there, the marble glossy under her hooves, but she was determined to please her master and his mate, just as they were determined to stay alive. She breached the dusty temple ceiling, where a large rectangular opening allowed them passage to the roof.
Like the rest of the structure, black marble slicked across the flat top. Another pool, a smaller one that had remained untouched by the surrounding variables of Death Valley was set into the roof. The sparkling water attracted the weapon Aneris controlled. Instead of taking the rings with it, the pearl ducked out of the rings’ hold and plunked into the water. The rings circled Aneris’s head until he reached out and took hold of them.
Ghouls climbed up the stairs on either side. Fia brayed, whipping her head from side to side, unsure of where to go or how to keep her masters safe. Seth had no choice but to slam his visor down, unbuckled the strap binding them together, and dismount Fia. They were well and truly trapped.
“Stay on Fia. If we can’t talk the Dragon down, then I want you to take her and run. Run hard until you reach the crossing on the other side.” Seth cut his flaming sword through the air, warning the first ghoul that slithered onto the roof.
Aneris clutched his rings, feeling his strength return with the contact and hopped off of Fia ungracefully. He shook his head. “We’re in this together. I won’t leave you.”
“Get on the horse, Aneris!”
“No!” Aneris growled and closed his eyes, summoning every bit of magic that was rightfully his. He poured it into the rings, allowing them recharge. If he tired during what was to come, the rings would retain enough magic to defend him until the end. He would not go down without a fight.
Seth’s back bumped his. A mighty roar filled the sky. The Dragon had returned. “Why can’t you just be the shy, goofy kid I met on the internet and listen to me?”
“Because I was never the shy, goofy kid.” Aneris smiled and clanked his rings together. Another Ghoul tested his legs on the roof, snapping his teeth together as he moved towards them. “I was awkward, unsure—yes—but I never gave up. I wanted you from the start, and even with all the bullshit in the middle, I’m keeping you until the end.”
“If we get out of this,” Seth grabbed Aneris from behind his back, “I’m not stopping at a simple grind this time. I’m making you mine.”
“I’m already am yours. But I like the incentive.” Aneris’s eyes burned with power. His vision brightened and he knew his eyes looked otherworldly. His rings glowed in front of him as he stretched out his banded arms, preparing for battle.
Fia snuffed fire and drug her front hoof against the marble over and over. Her mane burst red like her tail. Aneris had not a clue what the horse could really do, but he suspected she was ready to tear off Ghoul heads right along with them. When a black blur fell from the sky and fire and ash clouded up from the ground, Aneris and Seth turned as one. Large red eyes narrowed through the haze and silver claws curled around the edge of the roof.
Giant leathery wings unfolded and wrapped around the roof, enclosing their world in a dark canopy of Dragon. Seth held up his sword, grabbed onto Aneris and screamed as the first rolling breath of fire gushed from the Dragon’s mouth.
To be continued…