Another of Sue Vincent’s irresistible photo prompts from the Daily Echo. Thanks, Sue!
The Big Story
Rebecca inhaled and checked her teeth in the rearview mirror. Old Grumpy Pants was retiring from the Valley Voice, and that meant someone else’s butt would inherit his coveted chair. She needed one big story, a fabulous story, and she’d be renovating her sunny house on the beach and saying sayonara to her second job.
That story awaited her behind those looming stone walls and an iron-bound door large enough to accommodate a troll. The renowned fantasy author and recluse, Montague Ferry, hadn’t given a single interview since…ever, and she was determined to set the literary world on fire.
His books were sensations, translated into 45 languages and soaring to number one the instant they hit the e-street. She’d never liked fantasy, but she’d read one of Ferry’s novels and ended up gobbling all twelve down in one gluttonous binge. They were tastier than chocolate, and like every other person on the planet, she was addicted!
Ferry’s tales were intensely realistic. His worlds rose from the pages as if they were places he’d visited—with histories and languages, cultures and architectures, religions and politics. The characters were lovable, detestable, conflicted, and redeemable, portrayed with brilliant emotional authenticity as if he’d sat in a corner with his laptop and witnessed their actual lives unfolding. Epic trials escalated with each book, and the cast of characters expanded, unique faces flung unwittingly into the story and forced to uncover their strengths and talents, meet the challenges, or die trying.
Rebecca grabbed her recorder, exited her car, brushed her skirt, and marched up to the door. She reached for the knocker and something about it prickled the hair on her arms. Her hand stopped, suspended in mid-air, inches from touching the iron ring. The odd sensation wasn’t fright, but it wasn’t comforting either. Closer to an adrenaline rush before something momentous or life-changing. She puffed her cheeks and blew out a breath. “It’s only an interview. Relax.”
She knocked. The door opened. A diminutive Montague Ferry looked up at her through a pair of round granny glasses. His nose was shaped like a potato, and his hair looked as though he’d been recently electrocuted. “Here for the next big story?” he asked.
“Uh, yes.” She blinked. “I’m Rebecca from the Valley Voice.”
He wrinkled his brow. “You realize the commitment you’re making. This could take a while, and it doesn’t always end well.”
“I’m willing to give it a go,” she said with a smile, the encounter strange but far smoother than she’d anticipated. Ferry’s reception wasn’t jubilant, but he hadn’t slammed the old door in her face. She tried to peer around him into the home and couldn’t see a thing in the dim light. “I’ve been planning this for days, Mr. Ferry, and I promise not to waste your time.”
“You don’t look like the fantasy type.” He tapped a knobby finger on his chin.
I’ve read all your books. Emeris, the dragon tamer, is my favorite character.”
“Emeris, huh?” He sized her up. “Your timing isn’t bad, but you’ll have some competition for that one. He’s popular.”
“Pardon?” She laughed, the man so quirky. “Well, why don’t we go in and get started.”
Montague pursed his lips, nodded, and stepped aside. Rebecca grinned and walked through the ancient door that closed behind her.
The cavern’s torchlit walls domed over her, and the air reeked of smoke. The dragon swung its head, nostrils flaring, serpentine scales rippling over long sinuous muscle. She froze as its tail slithered across the stone floor at her feet in a shimmering stream of gold. Horns spiraled from a reptilian head and spikes laced the ridged back between its taloned wings. The beast inhaled, chest swelling, jaws gaping. She screamed.
A chain whipped around the dragon’s neck, wrenching its head aside as a gout of flames meant for her spewed against the blackened wall. “This way!” Emeris shouted.
In utter panic, Rebecca spun for the ancient door and hit nothing but stone; the door vanished.
Montague Ferry sat against the wall typing furiously on his laptop. “You’ll get the hang of it,” he assured her. “This will my biggest story yet. Now, run over to Emeris before you’re broiled alive.”