Daelaron the warrior has nothing in common with the crimson-haired pixie named Torch. But they soon find common cause when they meet at the Temple of Eluán, a dangerous portal through which otherworldly goblins threaten their world.
Their quest to secure the key to closing the portal — a crystal relic known as the Dragon Talon — leads them to faraway lands, unexpected dangers, and surprising but shifting alliances. Can they turn the tide of war before it’s too late?
“It seems our options are dwindling,” he told the towering ogre.
“Why can’t the magickal spirit summon her mighty powers?” asked Block.
“Her glass prison constrains her magick,” Daelaron responded. “If we could free her, she could summon the elements and bring them to our aid.”
“Leave that to me,” Block said.
Lord Gravenrael ascended the steps to the platform and faced the townspeople, long, red banners unfurling behind him. Executioners with blazing torches approached the wooden mounds and stood at attention, ready to set the pyres on fire at a moment’s notice.
“Good citizens of Maelvea,” Gravenrael bellowed, “This day is our resolve proudly displayed before all the malevolent forces which threaten our peace and tranquility. Evil monsters and devilish conjurers alike stand judged, and soon they will know what fate befalls any who dare to disrupt our peace and prosperity!” Crowds erupted in applause, enthusiastically cheering their liege.
Daelaron looked over at Block with a questioning face. For his part, Block gritted his teeth as he leaned forward and pulled against the pole that held him tight.
A collective gasp rose from the crowds as Block’s post began to rock. Gravenrael frowned as he hastened his speech.
“Let the miscreants of chaos burn until their menace is neutralized once and for all!” Gravenrael pronounced, motioning toward the guards with the flaming torches. They rushed to set the kindling on fire.
Block grimaced and groaned as he pulled harder against the post. Smoke bellowed from the kindling and flames spread through the mounds of lumber.
“Now is the time,” Daelaron urged, alarm rising in his voice. Torch stood straight up in her glass cage, wings twitching, a pensive look on her small face.
With a final roar Block pulled forward. A terrible creaking noise followed, then an ear-shattering crack as Block’s thick post snapped at the base. The crowds shrieked and ran. Armed guards converged on the site as Lord Gravenrael fled from the makeshift platform.
Block laughed as he bent over and turned, swinging the post over Daelaron’s and smacking the glass container holding Torch. Her container fell from its post and shattered on the smoldering logs below. With a victorious shout, Torch sprang up from the flames, glittering sparks flying everywhere. Daelaron grinned.
Paenal raced to the front line of armed guards, sword raised as pandemonium erupted. “Do not let them escape the flames!” he yelled. Dozens of armed guards shouted as one and surged around the burning pyres.
Torch flew higher as Block pulled apart his chains and grabbed the pole binding Daelaron. With a grunt, he yanked the pole from its foundations, freeing the warrior, and snapped the chains binding his arms as well.
Torch flung her arms wide and the flames around the base of the pyres flew outward, cascading over the surrounding guards and setting their shields on fire. They stumbled back as Block swept up Daelaron and ran for the hills. Daelaron jumped from Block’s hands and leapt onto a sturdy horse. Torch darted after them while the Maelveans regrouped.
“Stop them!” Paenal shrieked, but his words came too late. By the time the guards had recovered, the three freed prisoners had already disappeared into the untamed wilderness.
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Mark Mattison is a writer and internationally-respected independent scholar. He moderates the Grand Rapids Writer’s Exchange and lives in West Michigan with his wife, Rebecca; son, Gabe; and cat, Oreo.
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