turning point

Unnatural fires burned for days and the smoke filled the valley where the kingdom had once stood until the sun was blotted from the sky.  So much heat poured off the ground that a local wind storm swirled into life, further fanning the flames, and raked across the countryside in towering walls and spinning twisters.  The dragon hadn’t bothered to save any of their meager offerings, and snorted with pleasure as it watched the treasure and food disappear beneath the first of its fiery blasts.

The grand hall collapsed moments later as it returned to its true size.  The stone walls exploded away as its tail lashed out.  The domed ceiling caved in as its giant head broke free to rise overhead.  Then it had turned its breath to work on the remains, melting stone as easily as flesh and devouring lives before most had the chance to scream.

The sorceress, having dispatched the would-be assassin with a single word of magic, appeared next to the raging pyre that had been the kingdoms shining glory, and despite her layers of protective enchantments she winced in pain as the heat rolled through her.  Even in the depths of the dragons lair she had never felt so much heat.

“You better get yourself clear,” the dragon’s voice boomed in her mind and she winced again at the anger and pleasure she heard.  “You won’t survive what is coming.”

With a thought, her shadow guardian pulled her safely into its realm, where she would be safe from the beast’s tantrum but could still witness it.  At first she found herself once again awed by its fierce power, but as the valley was swept by fire, she felt a tear burn against her cheek as it slid away from her eye.

“Have I become the bully’s I’ve always detested?”

Her whispered question was swallowed by the darkness around her, as the fire storm razed the earth and the dragon’s laugh thundered from the sky.  She kept her composure beyond that solitary drop, but her mind was rife with turmoil and agony until she felt each new death as a strike to her heart.

“What have I done?”

“What have I become?”

“Where do I go from here…”

Time slipped, there in the shadows of the world, the dragon left, but the fires raged on.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

And, with that, I hope to have enticed you enough that were you to see/hear that I had finished this story and you could pick it up in exchange for parting with a few of your dollars, you would not hesitate to do so to see what happens next, to see what becomes of the sorceress and dragon, to see what further feats of magical brilliance lay ahead…  I’ve got some work to do on my end to make that happen, of course, but that’s just time and energy, and I have both.  Thank you for following along up to this point.  Thank you for the words of encouragement.  Thank you for the positive feedback and support.  In other words, thank you for reading.

a mountain tale

Gather round, gather round, and you shall hear a tale of beauty, pain, and magic.

Are you ready?

Everyone comfortable?  Did you already go to the bathroom?  Get a drink of water?  Okay, let’s begin…

A short time ago, slightly more than two weeks from today, the Queen, Little Prince, and I ventured forth from our kingdom to brave the spring-like conditions offered up on the slopes of Mammoth Mountain.  We were excited to return to a place that has always provided the restorative fun necessary to function peacefully in our normal daily routines and tasks.  However, we were a bit leery of how the Little Prince would handle the drive (a not insignificant six plus hours) and how he would handle being left in day care for only the second time.  (The first time was also at the on-mountain facility in Mammoth when he was two months old, and he slept the whole time he was there.)

Our trepidations regarding the Little Prince were misplaced.  He did great on the drive.  (He did great on the drive there, anyway.  The drive home?  Once the tremors have stopped, perhaps I’ll find the courage to write about that horror story.  I’m still haunted by the screams.)  And, while there were tears when we said goodbye, he let us leave him and there were positive signs that he would settle down and play with the staff and the eleventy-seven toys he had pulled out of their cubbies during the short time we were checking him in.  All in all, the Queen and I counted those two parts of our adventure as a huge success.

We donned our boots, grabbed our boards, and took the gondola up to McCoy Station.  (As a side note, that’s where we said our vows as part of the grand festival of awesome that was our wedding.  Hey, when you are marrying a Queen, you’ve got to go all out, right?  Anyway, like I said in the beginning, sort of, Mammoth is special for us.)  We strapped in and skated out to the edge of the slope we were going to drop down, and started our first runs in 14 months…

Shortly thereafter we realized our mistake.  We had placed our worry on the wrong aspect of this adventure.  We hadn’t needed to worry about the Little Prince.  Instead, we should have worried about our ability to remember how to snowboard without falling.  There was falling.  There was so much falling.  There was so much falling and so much pain.  I still hurt in places now, and I’m talking about more than just my ego.

We slipped and tumbled and crashed our way down two runs.  Disgusted.  Embarrassed.  Sore.  Frustrated.

While we don’t consider ourselves great, we are at least average at the art of strapping ourselves to elongated pieces of plastic and throwing ourselves off the side of a mountain (strap and throw, for short), and in less than thirty minutes we had both fallen more times than we had in the last five years combined.  So, the Queen and I trudged back to our car defeated and lost in a fog of the crumbling hopes we’d had for the day.  The beautiful blue skies towering over the snow-capped peaks mocked us.  The zen we sought eluded us.

Then, in a spark of imaginative madness, an idea occurred to us.

Shortly after, we were back on the mountain carving our way down the slopes confidently and competently as we knew we were capable of all along.  The day was saved.  We found the moments of calm and peace we had longed for as our boards slid gracefully over the snow and the day warmed our souls and soothed our hearts.  The songs of the mountain rolled over us and we rejoiced.

It.  Was.  Magic.

What we had forgotten at the beginning of the day, and had remembered in that light-bulb moment, was respect.  The Queen and I had been so concerned about how the Little Prince was going to do, we had forgotten completely about paying homage to the mountain.  Once we had paid the mountain its rightful dues, Mammoth graced us with a bit of its boundless magic and allowed us to navigate its curves once again.

It was simple, really, to pay our respect, all we had to do was buy season passes for next year…  Some may call that throwing money at the problem.  I call it magic.

where there’s smoke

The demon rose from her shadow and plucked the arrow from the air moments before it would have hit her outermost magical shields.  The shaft broke in two as the massive hand in the darkness crushed the missile in its grip.  Then feathers and stone sharpened head followed the split shaft into oblivion as the demon swallowed the weapon into its depths.  While the sorceress had sensed the projectile coming towards her, and had no doubts that her own spells would have protected her from harm, she was still fascinated to finally get to see her guardian in action.

Pulling her gaze away from the demon, she followed the flight of the arrow to see if she could locate her attacker.  The celebrations were still swinging wildly around her and when no immediate threat showed itself she began to suppose it could have been an accident, a celebratory firing into the sky that went errant.  She didn’t actually think that was the case, but it had already been a strange day and wouldn’t discount any theories until she was certain what had happened.  She also wanted to make certain it had been a deliberate attack before she alerted the dragon to it, but sensing its presence in her mind she turned back to see the beast staring at her.

Its snout rose in a sneer and its voice filled her head, “Go find out if it was deliberate.”

She nodded in deference to the dragon’s request and went to find where the arrow had been fired from.  The demon, pulling free from her shadow again, stalked in front of her, sniffing the air to pinpoint the projectile’s path.

The King, noticing the sudden reversal of the dragon’s mood, while shying away from the tremendous amount of heat pouring off the beast’s scales, stammered, “Is everything alright?”

“I doubt it,” the dragon growled, digging its claws into the stone floor and tearing boulder sized chunks free with ease.

A small tendril of smoke escaped the beast’s maw and rose to collect in the domed ceiling of the grand hall.  The dragon had fit through their modified opening after it used its magic to shrink to a quarter of its normal size, which it had done only after circling the King’s castle four times so he, and all his citizens, could see its true form.  And, much as the sorceress had predicted, the King had fumbled over his words of greeting and deference until the dragon had shrunk to a more manageable size for his tiny brain to comprehend.  Even after the festivities had kicked off without a hitch, the King had continued to tremble and cower next to the might beast.  It had pleased the dragon greatly.

The whole day, up until it had felt the arrow’s vibrations cutting through the air as the projectile approached the witch, had pleased the dragon.  It had enjoyed stretching its wings for the flight down from its cave.  It had enjoyed feeling the fear wash over the citizens of the kingdom as it roared overhead.  It had relished the scents of the various dishes that had been cooked and served just for it and the glint of the sunlight casting rainbows around the jeweled offerings.  But then someone had fired an arrow at the witch…

The beast had sensed the witches hope that it had been an accident, but it knew better.  There had been too much velocity, and too much accuracy in the shot for it to have been anything but a direct attack.  The dragon knew what she would find, knew the archer’s death would be quick, if not painless, and knew how much he would enjoy razing this kingdom to ash in his wrath.  The fire swirling within the beast began to ratchet up to an inferno.

naturally

Forgotten words were sprawled in looping letters across the crumbling walls of society’s last bastion of civilization.  The language they were written in had died along with the last of those who had dwelled within the guarded community and, so, their attempts to preserve a miniscule piece of their culture had been in vain.  Though, that mattered little to them anymore.  Their dust mixed with the soil and provided the fuel for nature’s slow reclamation of the shambled city.

Relics of rusted metal and spidering glass sank into the ground, their purpose just as forgotten and unknown as the scribbled lettering.  Sun and rain began their slow decay, beating into them, wearing them down, turning their strengths into weaknesses, and time, the ravager of all things, and the earth did the rest.  Vines wound around, underneath, through and over the artifacts of the ancient civilization, pulling them so far apart from where they started their original form was indiscernible.

Fields of flowers rose from the splintered asphalt.  Forests ranged unchecked where homes once stood, their tall canopies towering over the few remaining roofs that still draped over broken foundations.  Animals of all types claimed what remained.  The larger beasts found their way into the concrete lined basements.  The smaller beasts burrowed dens in leftover upholstered chairs and couches.  Birds nestled into the eaves.

None remained who understood any of the loss or rebirth that had transpired.  The greatest ideas and triumphs of the last civilization meant less to the world than the bones and flesh that had been returned to the ground.  Their greatest crimes and disasters were equally meaningless.  History meant nothing.  The future meant nothing.  And life went on, naturally.

…..

God opened his eyes, the marble he’d been playing with before dozing off, still at his feet.  His shook his head to dislodge the cobwebs of the nightmare he’d just had as he stooped low to peer into the swirling vibrancy of the marble’s core.  So beautiful.  So pristine.  So perfect, just as it had always been.  Scooping up the orb, he deposited it with the rest of his collection and then strode forward to find other mischief.

a conversation with a dragon

“Are they ready for me?”

The dragon’s voice woke her from her deep slumber, but it no longer scared the sorceress as it would have before they struck their arrangement.  Rolling from her side to her back, and pulling the covers tighter around her to keep out the cold of the evening, she responded without opening her eyes, “As ready as anyone can be.  They have gathered two trunks full of jeweled items and rare coins, and they have been cooking non-stop for days to have enough food for the ceremony they hope to hold in your honor.  They have even knocked down one of the walls of their grand hall so you can easily enter and take a prominent position for the festivities.  Though, they seem to have greatly underestimated your size because I do not think you will fit.”

She could hear the laughter in its voice as it responded, “Nor do I think I’d like being crowded into such a place while surrounded by so many mortals. “  The laughter quickly faded into anger as the dragon continued, “And I am not there to be a spectacle for them all to gawk at.  I am there for their respect and I will have it when my shadow darkens their castle walls and my roar rings in their ears.”

“Once they see you and witness your strength, power, and majesty, I can’t imagine any of them will be brave enough to dine with you in the grand hall, anyway.  The King might, simply from a sense of obligation to his position, but he will tremble before you and stumble over his words.”

“You don’t need to flatter me anymore, witch, you have proved your worth.  You have shown me your kindred spirit.  I have seen the fire burning your soul.”

“It wasn’t an attempt at flattery, dragon.  I met with the King and he was cowering before me.  Standing before you, if he can manage it, will be the greatest feat of his life.”

“We will see tomorrow when I make my appearance…” the beast paused and the sorceress opened her eyes as she sensed the request before it entered her mind.  “I would like you to join me this time.  Future kingdoms I will likely fly to and receive my homage on my own, but, for this first one, to finalize our alliance, I would like you at my side.”

“Of course,” she immediately answered, though the words were followed by the curiosity of the request and the pondering that perhaps the dragon had a weakness after all.

Whatever it will be…

sabaa tahir

YA Author, Musichead, Book Junkie

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