Home > Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(3)

Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1)(3)
Jeff Wheeler

He saw the shapes emerge from the woods, coming from three sides at once. They were swift as shadows, slinking in the fading light, eyes luminous and full of hate. They were enormous, yet the bulk deceived. They were supple and graceful, beings from another realm of existence, let loose to guard and destroy. They were colorful, yet of no color, like glass.

Tyrus felt the first drops of rain on his face and the wind kicked up another cascade of brittle leaves. The leaves would burn. The entire grove would burn.

Merinda turned and faced the nightmares caging them. Her eyes were flat, devoid of emotion. “If a boy, name him Annon. If a girl, name her Hettie. That was my mother’s name.”

In his mind, Tyrus repeated the words to tame his magic. He would try to destroy them alone, but he was too late. Merinda raised her good arm and flames gushed from her fingers, sweeping the attackers with a plume of heat that turned them into white ash.

It was not enough. A new wave of attackers bounded in from behind them. Tyrus had just enough time to turn and send flames hurtling into them. He brought down three before the fourth launched at him and sent him toppling backward. Claws raked down his lips and chin, furiously and ferociously trying to rip out his throat. He felt its hind claws on his bloodied legs and he twisted reflexively. Its teeth snapped near his ear. He could feel its panting breath, its saliva spattering on his neck. Then suddenly he was bathed in flames, and the being vanished with the heat. Merinda stood over him, her crooked arm held out, sending more fire into the new attackers. Smoke trailed from his cloak.

Tyrus saw her eyes. They were gleeful.

“Stop!” he shouted at her. “Merinda, stop!”

She let the flames out like a flood, engulfing the area in blazing sheets, catching another group as it tried to flank her. Then she smiled, experiencing a euphoria so powerful that it stole everything from her.

Tyrus saw another pack lunging at her from behind. Pulling himself up to one knee, he straightened his arms and sent a whirlwind of fire at them, though more focused and controlled. There were so many! One dodged his attempt to destroy it and vaulted at Merinda. It struck her from behind, smashing her to the charred earth. It raised a terrible paw and Tyrus tackled it, grabbing its outstretched limb and sending flames through it all in one burst. He felt his hold on sanity slipping. He wanted to free the magic completely, to create a forest blaze so massive that nothing but he and Merinda would be safe to walk in it. He nearly gave into the craving.

Merinda was back on her feet again, her face twisted with hatred and rage. Another pack loomed in, circling them from all sides, more cautious this time, but no less determined. She did not hesitate. Her jaw looked swollen. It was probably broken. Her eyes focused and then the very trees around them exploded with flames, sending shards of bark and flaming wood into their midst.

Tyrus had never seen the fireblood unleashed so fully, not even when his sister had done it.

“No,” he whispered hoarsely. It was too late for Merinda.

The storm broke at last, flooding the trees and woods in a deluge. The rains would stop the burning eventually. Tyrus led the Druidecht girl through the maze, eyes down on the dirt. He could sense the beings in the trees now, he could feel them grabbing at his mind, commanding him to look at them. He walked feverishly, pulling Merinda after him. She sang softly to herself, a lullaby broken with intermittent giggles.

In the end, it was the rain that saved Tyrus’s life. It was not something he had planned on or accounted for in his thinking. It was a random bit of luck, a vagary that made the difference between life and death. It was the rain that disguised his trail just long enough for the two of them to slip away from the maze of oak trees, a maze that had murdered the twelve who had entered it with him.

“There is a saying among the Druidecht order: Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe. They harbor the peculiar notion that our world co-exists with another realm, a realm of spirit which they call Mirrowen. The denizens of Mirrowen cannot be seen with mortal eyes and often play pranks on us. They are firm in this belief, often wearing a token of their discipleship—called a talisman—around their necks. The world beyond the walls of Kenatos is full of strange and peculiar traditions. I do not pass judgment on them. My intent is merely to describe them fully and let my readers judge for themselves. I would add, however, that the Druidecht are known to ingest copious quantities of mushrooms.”

– Possidius Adeodat, Archivist of Kenatos

It could be said, and rightly so, that Annon was a Druidecht. It could also be said that he preferred the company of raccoons, wrens, and the millions of unseen spirits roaming the woods to any conversation with people. He had spent most of his eighteen years wandering the vast woods of the Kingdom of Wayland, though on occasion he had journeyed as far west as the woods bordering Stonehollow. The life suited him perfectly. He had never been comfortable in thronging crowds or rude cities. The secluded hamlets and villages of Wayland fit his reclusive personality. Being a Druidecht, he was offered respect from nearly anyone he met. He had no home or dwelling place, carrying all his possessions in a large pack slung around his shoulders, but he was never deprived of shelter when he needed it.

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