Descent #Writephoto

image by Sue Vincent

Thank you to Sue Vincent for the lovely #writephoto prompt. I couldn’t resist cheating on this one and only slightly modified a scene from The Sorcerer’s Garden. I hope you enjoy!

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Dustin waited at the base of the sweeping stairs, the heaviness of his mail hauberk welcome beneath his light leather armor. He carried his recurve bow and quiver, his sword sheathed, knives tucked in his belt and boot.

The palace lay in darkness, candles snuffed and lamps doused. Only a shimmer of powdery moonlight glided through the stair-hall’s tall windows and polished the curved marble treads. He’d ordered the King’s Guard to double patrols on the walls, leaving the palace eerily vacant.

Soft shuffling feet accompanied whispered voices above. A black hood drawn over his white hair, Tristan drifted down the stairs, no more visible than the shadow of a cloud across a night sky. Behind him, the short, square form of the queen descended, her face hidden by her cowl, a pale hand gripping the banister. She turned briefly to gaze upward at the solitary king who peered over the rail above, a ghostly specter if not for the forlorn eyes glinting in the moonlight. She raised a hand, reached briefly with her fingers in a final farewell.

The princess trailed behind the queen, her cloak open, cowl thrown back. The onyx beads encircling the hem of her black dress swept the steps with a soft hiss. Stately, defiant, she refused to acknowledge her rescuers, and Dustin wondered if she believed the dreamer’s prophesy, if her starched back signified valor or fear. He couldn’t help staring at the woman, the lines of her cheekbones, her dark eyes, and the wisps of raven hair framing her face.

Before she reached the bottom of the staircase, she too paused to look back at her father. Dustin glanced up as well, only to see the king touch his hand to his heart at the gallery rail. The woman’s gasp was little more than a whisper as her fingers returned the final gesture. The doomed king retreated, and her step faltered on the stair. Dustin reached for her arm to steady her, and for a heartbeat, their eyes crossed paths. Then hers, moist with tears, disappeared as she drew her cowl over her head, and whispered, “We must go.”

Tunnel #Writephoto

Azalus teetered on the bluff’s edge, warded sword wheeling for balance against the brilliant sky. The mountain beneath his feet offered no reprieve, a sheet of obsidian sleek as spilled oil.

Below him, the massive dragon shot up along the mirrored wall, its neck and talons extended. Slit reptilian eyes reflected the inferno erupting from its throat. The beast blasted through its own blaze, and its maw gaped, scorched shards of the last armsman wedged between rows of serrated teeth. In a heartbeat, chances of escape had dropped from doubtful to dismal.

Gaylen’s whip coiled around the vambrace shielding Azalus’s forearm, and he clasped it as his feet slipped into the heated air. His body slammed against the rock wall, and the dragon altered its flight to pick off the newly dangling prey.

“Dragon,” Azalus shouted to his fellow fugitive and pointed the tip of his sword at the ascending beast. Jade scales glimmered like sunlight on still water, and webbed wings beat with the snap of wind-caught sails. Beautiful and deadly.

Above him Gaylen hauled. “Reavers are closing.”

Suspended on the whip, Azalus kicked against the cliff’s sheer face. Gaylen heaved, and when Azalus reached the lip, he thrust his sword arm across the rock, fighting for leverage. Movement at the forest’s rim caught his eye. “Reavers. Behind you!”

Gaylen staggered. His face morphed into a fusion of disbelief and despair as his flesh yielded to their enemy’s iron bolts. The whip’s stock eased from his hand. Azalus slipped into the air.

The monstrous dragon’s throat yawned, jaw bones split, and fangs hyperextended. Azalus straightened, arms overhead, sword in a two-handed grip. The beast’s gullet stretched open, air drawn in for another explosion of fire. He speared between the teeth, slid over the forked tongue, and descended into darkness. The welling heat and sulfurous reek burned his lungs as he glided down the blackened throat. With a vengeful howl, he thrust the blade forward and carved as he fell. Steel sliced through flesh, thudded against bone, and blood gushed, dousing the rising flame.

Azalus’s careening descent ceased, or the dragon plummeted with him. He braced himself against the blood-slick wall, sword jammed deep between the vertebrae. The creature writhed and spasmed, and Azalus swallowed his gorge as they plunged toward the vale.

He woke with a gasp, disoriented, heart pounding. His body felt trampled, but nothing of his pain foreboded death. He gulped a breath and listened, willed his nerves to stillness. The dragon lay motionless, he lodged in its throat in a pool of congealed blood. Rising to a crouch, he yanked his sword free of the flesh, and with fingers tracing the throat’s charred wall, he staggered down the tunnel toward the light.

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Thanks to Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo for another fun #writephoto prompt. Check out her site and join in the weekly fun.