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Chapter 5

Zarcar and I have begun our battle over my fate while I simultaneously hear innocent screams from the city. It is distracting and I can’t decide if I should focus on Zarcar or saving the priestesses.

In other words, I was doomed.

However, now the battle had begun and I could do nothing but react on first instincts. It didn’t help that I was surrounded by thick misty fog. I’m glad my first spell was to ask for the moon to guide me through my steps, so at least I have a tiny advantage in the beginning. I feel the wind force me to jump to the right as one of the horse sized demon Dragons, reaches down to try and nick at the edge of my dress.

The moon guides me into jumping at the right time.

It has both Dragons snorting flame in anger.

I duck from the fire, turning to run as the wind forces me to choose that direction next. As I head for my pot plants, I hide behind them while muttering.

“Dazzle their eyes with moonlight,” I hold my hand up, “...dazzle them blind!”

It is a special spell I had gained, by raising my hand into a beam of moonlight - a flash of light will confuse Zarcar and his beasts momentarily.

Brighter than lightning, the warrior I’m fighting and his beasts get bedazzled in a luminescent burst.

They would be sightless for at least 30 seconds.

I look up and see the clouds moving in, and I don’t doubt Zarcar has done something to bring in the overcast sky to block my moonlight.

I use my brief last opportunity to run to the edge of the tower and look down at the building of pyres.

"Misfortune for the flames, please!" I cry out to the moon as the last beams disappear.

I usually didn’t have to do this, but my blood was sacred for a reason.

It was powerful.

I raise my hand and bite a small patch of skin until it bleeds so I can gather a droplet of blood on my finger tip. I hold it outright and suck in a deep breath. I blow out as I pray to the moon.

If the wind can carry my blood to the pyres - my curse of misfortune will land and stop the burning; or at least hinder the success.

It’s only when I manage to blow the droplet of blood, that I hear two guttural growls behind me... and notice two other pyres set up on other streets that I missed.

“No!” I cry out as I’m jerked back and I hear my dress tear and rip.

I fall on my butt as one of the Dragons pulls me backwards, while the other Dragon leans in and opens it mouth - as if to burst me with flames.

Instead, a hot air which mirages from it’s mouth, leaves its form and hits me in the face.

As I breathe in, I feel my head spin. For a moment I feel like I’m about to pass out, but then I regain my balance and blink until I can see again.

I feel a distinct feeling, a deep throb in my chest, as my magic seems cut off.

Just as I’m comprehending that, I feel a sharp talon at my back, tickling my skin before slicing down through the back of my dress.

“What in the moon? Zarcar!" I yell out in distress as I try to lurch away but the second Dragon runs a second talon down the front of my dress - ripping and ruining the front as well.

Embers leak from the scales of the excited blood red Dragons, which drip down onto the dress and start to burn the ends of the silk.

“Stop!” I try to crawl back and step on the burning material, but it just burns my foot and I whimper.

“Just surrender, Chyronex,” I hear Zarcar waiting for me, so patiently.

It’s majorly frustrating.

But then I smell smoke wafting up from the street and I start to panic, even as my ruined dress starts to burn.

“I will never surrender!” I scream back at him and try to regain my footing as I move back - but the Dragons snarl and spit at me, warning me not to run.

I freeze, trying to work out why my magic is still gone - until I hear a scream that’s different.

A scream from the priestesses being pulled onto the pyre - to die.

“Will you call off the burning if I surrender willingly?” I call out, desperate and hopeful as the cry of pain from the priestesses echoes through the city, piercing my heart, “Please - Zarcar. This is barbaric.”

“Dismissed,” as Zarcar speaks this word, the fog and the Dragons mist away into another dimension.

I’m left on the rooftop with a burning, ripped dress and a bleeding palm.

Now, my magic feels present again, but only minimally. It feels damaged.

I turn my back to him as he starts to stalk toward me with a serious look which is an attempt to hide the easy victory off his face.

“Don’t look at them,” Zarcar, weirdly protective, tries to stop me but I am already limping to the very edge of the tower to see what trouble is being caused.

When I glance over the edge, I see the fires burning bright. Only one pyre doesn’t burn - my doing.

But that wouldn’t be enough to save them tonight as long as the other 2 were successful.

“Please stop this, I don’t care about my tower, I don’t care about anything anymore - I just want the burning to stop,” I beg the victorious usurper of my city and now my tower, without looking back at him.

“It’s not my order - I just carried out the instruction,” Zarcar explains this from right behind me, as I feel his hands grab my dress, lifting it from my leg, “Take this off before you burn too - the flames are going up your ankle.”

“Don’t touch me, I don’t care,” I hiss through my teeth, “Listen to me. Our trouble is done, just stop this. Please, stop this.”

“Hysteria only gets you so far, Chyronex,” Zarcar speaks this way too relaxed for my liking as he lays a hand on each of my shoulders. I cringe at the contact, not used to the hotness of someone else’s touch, least of all a warrior, ”Turn, you don’t need to see anything,” he is firm as he pulls me from the edge and turns me around to face my plants. I struggle back but he just ends up tugging the ripped material off my body, “Step out of this piece of ruined silk and turn to me with your submission.”

Zarcar still sounds calm and I stumble a few steps forward, my body naked as I turn to him and cover myself with my hands.

Being naked was the last thing to worry about, however..

“I submit only if you stop the damn fires -” I have tears in my eyes and my voice is barely holding on to it’s normal unwavering strength. I can barely whisper the words as I fight back the pain flooding inside me. It’s almost like I could feel my fellow priestesses being scorched.

Zarcar tilts his head, his brown ringlets waving in the light wind as his coal painted eyes hold my own shifting gaze of distress. I keep getting the feeling he is trying to calm me down. It just confuses me.

He had caused this.

“When I take you down into the tower, you need to be quiet and submissive so the others know it’s all over,” Zarcar explains, gently enough.

“What aren’t you telling me?” I whisper, “You are full of secrets and you never tell me directly what your mission is within Swendula.”

“I’ll tell you one secret if you come down with me into the tower, willingly and at my side,” Zarcar raises a brow.

I say nothing and he reaches back to pull up his hood.

“...you can’t stop the order to burn them... can you?” I ask, “Even if you wanted to...”

“Slow witted but yes, you finally understand,” Zarcar speaks with his hood down over his forehead, but I can still see the mischief in his eyes.

“I want you to tell me a secret,” I jerk as I hear another scream, but I feel defeated as I reach for my moon magic yet it is still too weak to harness, “And I will go down quietly. But I want you to tell everyone to leave.”

“They will but I’m not leaving,” Zarcar mentions, firmly, “I’m staying with you. The secret is, Chyronex - I saved you. All were set to burn. My king and I in fact, don’t believe in women practicing magic. It’s for men. And you will no longer practice it while under my roof. So, you better understand it clearly. You were set to burn and the only reason you’re alive tonight is because I’m allowed to take whatever slaves I see fit. That first day we met; you caught my attention. I think we can keep each other company. Also, not to mention, I could use a slave to keep the place clean. I’m doing you a favour, Chyronex, I saved your lif -”

Yet even as he says it, the screams start to multiply.

They get louder and full of so much pain and torture, I feel like their souls are passing through my very body as they slowly die.

I can’t cope and I stop my breathing.

That’s when I faint, uselessly and defeated - unfairly.

How could one focus on a battle while their friends were being murdered around them?

I pass into the world of dreaming thinking one firm thing.

Zarcar was a manipulative, secretive bastard and I still had no idea who he really was... or what he really wanted... with me under his watchful eye.

What in the hell was he really trying to achieve?

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