The FIre Dragon ... an excerpt from “the Deck of the Numinon”
Sheets of flame spread like ragged claws as the center winds grew in tempest, the funnel forming a fiery snout with baleful eyes scorching hot above its flaming maw. Each lick of flame fluttered into the swirling center to form wavering triangles of dragon-like teeth, scything scales and monstrous claws, raging as it gained fuel. Fire began to dance throughout the scrub pine as his eyes took in the inferno, lashing out in hot vapors like a creature of terrifying myth, etched in the air with burning inks.
The mass of flame wrenched around, its calamitous eyes passing across his form as it turned, spurring Starrel into action. He bolted for the Commander’s tent as trailing fires from the sorcerous beast whipped like a spiked tail against the siege engines staged beyond the camps. Wood and pitch combined with the impact to explode in phosphorus brilliance.
Officers were ineffectually shouting orders at each other and their confused messengers, as Starrel neared the Commander’s pavilion. Suddenly, a crackling wind caused him to instinctively duck. Talons of fire, trailing acid smoke, surged overhead and sliced through the tent like burning knives, the fiery rip of rending canvas overlaid by the screams of those within. The pavilion bloomed in conflagration. Starrel shuddered to a stop and bolted back towards the Painted Horse lines without hesitation. Chaos was charging through the foot soldier and heavy horse encampments. Heat washed past him in waves, pushing him as he raced up a short hummock to the Cherros lines. He saw the horses freed of their hobbles and saddled, though most of the men were racing about, gathering belongings and setting packs. There were no commands to relay and the curse of the Gates … it could be nothing else … was an enemy for which he had no weapons nor commission to fight.
“Mount and ride! Now!” Starrel shouted as he ran towards a lean roan that held the end position of the picket. His Second tossed the reins and they bounded onto their mounts in unison as others reached the horse lines.
“South. Reach the sands!”
Starrel spurred forward through the whirling smokes of the camp, which seemed to burst with scalding heat as they passed. He pounded up the low rise, racing his horse past the divide of trees where he wheeled to a stop at the crest of the hill, waving the rest of the troop towards the sandy benches beyond the reach of both river and trees.
Behind, the mass of flame was rising majestically from the mad capers of fire that raged throughout the encampment, drawing in the air with violent gusts. Starrel’s dark hair whipped at his face as he gazed upon the raging crimsons and golds of the apparition beginning to rise with ponderous sinuations of its blazing tail, lifting in shreds with the crackling smoke of the burning ground. A hideous blazing maw snarled, while fiery claws grasped at the gases for flight, growing larger and lofting ever higher in their ethers. In the fireglow he could see clusters of soldiers racing towards the river, too few considering the numbers that had been amassed.
Starrel froze as the dragon’s burning gaze passed over the encampment. There was no escaping its violent wrath should it advance upon his troop. He fought to still his breath as the spectre’s eyes were drawn beyond them, the fiery enchantment beginning to shear away from the torched remains of the army and towards the Black Gate. Its sinuous flight pulsed the air like the rush of heated bellows, leaving a trail of cindered debris and smoking soots which further blackened the night as it swept in the direction of the Stands.
Once past the cloak of the scrub pines, Narya turned, jerking his horse to a halt at Starrel’s side. “What is it that I’m seeing?” Narya was a solid fighter in battle but his eyes looked as wide and wild as a raw recruit seeing a blooded sword for the first time.
Starrel had the same level of disbelief, though he had the advantage of years to add ice to his veins. He watched the shredding flames of the dragon diminish as it gained distance away from them, the sinuous curves of its serpentine flight finally disappearing beyond the protective screen of the nearby Granite Mountains.