This is another of my early works about a pile-up of protagonists with varying goals.
It’s a fantasy story—featuring an Elf, no less—and in a lot of ways was a precursor to Graylands. So readers should recognize certain characters and concepts that wound up getting used and incorporated in my books.

Donovan Moore was a man with an intangible quality about him. He was tall and thin, with shining white hair—but not elderly. There was great strength in his lanky frame and fearful power behind his eyes. As High Cleric of the Disciples of Moros, he was rarely seen in person—often delegating orders to subordinates or lower Clerics—but when he made his presence known, he had a talent for shrinking the will of even the strongest of those around him.

He sat in his lavish armchair, staring at the dagger in his hand, with a content and sly smirk on his narrow face. The handle of the dagger was pure silver, crafted into the shape of a horned serpent. The blade was dull gray, but pulsed with a faint red glow—enchanted for a divine purpose. As Moore listened to the crashing waves outside the tower window, he felt a surge of anticipation flow through his blood.

It wouldn’t be long now.

“Cleric Moore,” said one of his followers, entering the chamber. “The Great Tail is visible and will be before the moon shortly.”

“And the Princess?”

“Still unconscious.”

“Wake her and get her ready,” he said, putting on his ceremonial garb. “Tell the guards to remain on high alert.”

The subordinate bowed and left as Moore walked to the window, closing his gold and maroon robes. The last trace of sun disappeared over the horizon, and high above, a fat, yellow moon shined like a glowing eye. In the distance, the comet known as the Great Tail approached—soon to pass the moon, an event that only occurred every thousand years.

Looking at the comet, he gripped the dagger tight. When the Great Tail eclipsed the moon, its blade would pierce Princess Anna’s heart, and with the sacrifice of royal blood, Moros, the Final Dragon, would rise again and cleanse the world in his mighty fire. And from the ashes, the Disciples—led by High Cleric Moore of course—would build a new, perfect society.

With a satisfied smile, he set to make the final preparations. The presence of the Great Tail lit the night to a deep, red hue like early evening and made the ocean like blood. Despite the violent waves, there was an expectant hush like before a great storm.

Taking one last look at the approaching comet, Moore deemed it a fitting atmosphere to herald the coming of a god.

* * *

Dropping his sword on the ground beside him, Law Ajax collapsed at the foot of a thick oak tree—the sound of waves crashing in the distance. With sweat pouring down his back beneath his armor, he tried to let the cool air on his face soothe him as the pins and needles of his body relaxing took hold. He struggled to control his haggard breathing, but every gasp brought with it sharp pain in his side where the Enforcer’s blade nearly cut him in two.

He checked behind him to see if the monster still followed, but the gods had granted him a small favor. Able to catch his breath, Law pulled off his armor and dressed the wound. There was a lot of blood, but it was nothing serious.

Law had been tracking the Disciples of Moros and their leader for years before finally learning of their base near the Blind Cliffs. He was traveling through the woods to their lair when he crossed paths with the being known only as the Enforcer. He—or it—was something that may have once been a man, but was now nothing more than a killing machine. An imposing figure in ragged black clothes and a matching, featureless mask that revealed no humanity or emotion of any kind, he wandered the land, killing all he came across for no known reason or purpose.

Law had heard of the Enforcer, but never before encountered him. Rumor said he was impossible to kill, and from the scars and burns that riddled his wretched body, it certainly appeared to be true. But Law Ajax would not be stopped by a mindless butcher.

The Enforcer was no fighter, slashing with his massive blade like he was trying to cut down a tree. Law evaded the attacks and countered, but for every strike with his sword, the Enforcer would not fall. Like a juggernaut, he rose again and again, showing no signs of pain or fatigue. He continued attacking even while impaled through his heart.

It didn’t become clear to Law what he was facing until he cut the creature’s arm from his shoulder … and the Enforcer simply pressed it back to his body where it healed before Law’s very eyes.

In all his years as a soldier, he never encountered such an abomination, and although he was not one to run from battle, he knew this was a fight that couldn’t be won. Knowing he should save his strength for later, he retreated—only to be chased through the woods for nearly an hour before losing the Enforcer.

The pain in his side dulling and strength returning, Law put his armor back on, sheathed his sword, and resumed his journey. Following the sound of the ocean in the distance, he reached the edge of the cliffs where he found the massive tower. It stood upon a precipice, no more than a hundred feet separate from the mainland, with its apex looming high above like a sleeping giant. A stone bridge connected the mainland to the tower entrance, and even from where he was, Law could see numerous armed guards on patrol.

They wore the brown and maroon robes associated with the Disciples of Moros, and upon seeing them, an image of Elena flashed across Law’s memory—followed by an overwhelming urge to storm the tower and cut down everyone who stood in his way. He’d already encountered Moore’s cowards many times, and he’d yet to find one that could truly oppose him. Even after fighting the Enforcer, he was certain he could cut a swath through the entire wretched cult himself.

After so long, he was so close to ending it all tonight …

Law resisted his anger, locking it deep inside and saving it for when he faced Moore. He instead let the soldier remain in control and conceded he had no idea how many more Disciples were waiting behind the entrance. Busting in through the front would only give them time to regroup and gather their strength.

Stealth was the practical option, but unless he descended the cliffs—over two hundred feet—then crossed the water and climbed back up, the only way to or from the tower was the lone bridge. Studying it through his scope, he saw the underside was less refined, ragged rock. The guards seemed to be focused on the front, and if he got close enough without being noticed, he could climb across by the bottom.

He moved in, using the cover of the woods, and prepared his grappling hook that was shot with a steam-powered gun. Although the guards’ attention was fixed ahead, he knew he’d have to move fast and at the right moment so they wouldn’t catch him. After studying the timing of the guards’ patrol, he found a window to make his move.

The gun had a range of fifty feet, and he could only hope the hook found its mark, but thinking of Elena—and the years he’d spent tracking and hunting that bastard Moore—the risk came easy. Law bolted from the woods and lunged from the cliff, looking like a man committing suicide. He fired the hook into the jagged crooks beneath the bridge.

Free-falling, he took a moment to ponder, should the hook not connect to anything, whether he’d survive the fall. Luckily, the rope snapped taut, and he swung through the air for a few moments before steadying himself and climbing back up. He moved fast and steeled himself on the chance a guard spotted him, but heard no commotion nor alarm. The crashing waves drowned out the sound of steam-gun and hook, and Law reached the bridge unnoticed.

“Still some luck left, soldier,” he murmured.

Traversing the underside of the bridge was a slow, exhausting, and maddening exercise. Law’s muscles burned worse than when he fought the Enforcer—his hands growing raw and eventually numb even with his gloves on. The breeze of the open air brought no comfort as sweat poured from his burning face, and thick veins bulged in his neck. Where he couldn’t grip, he was forced to dig into the rock with a dagger and make his own, slowing the process even more.

Through it all—as always when his quest slowed, if not came to an outright halt—it was thoughts of Elena that kept him going.

Even in his youth, Law Ajax was a massive man. Given his imposing, muscular physique, it was only natural he became a soldier and quickly ascended the ranks to the Sentry Elite. His fierceness in battle, coupled with his dark skin, intimidating presence, and grim demeanor, earned him the nickname “Undertaker.” For a long time, Law believed a life of combat was all he would know. Until he met her.

At the time, he scoffed at the idea. It seemed too much like fiction. The fairy tale story he’d mock even in his childhood. That he, the lifelong soldier—the feared Undertaker—should find the perfect woman who would make him give up his sword and choose the simple life. But Elena was a different kind of woman—one that convinced him to put aside his custom-made, six-foot Bastard Sword and retire.

And for a time, the Undertaker knew peace.

Until they came. Until Donovan Moore and his cult …

Law reached the opposite precipice, thoughts of Elena surpassing any pain or soreness that wracked his body. He’d tracked and hunted the cult since that day—years now—but not as a Sentry Elite. Not as the sanctioned soldier, commissioned to preserve justice. He was man for revenge. He killed Disciples where he found them, tracking their leader wherever he moved, driven always by his memory of Elena.

He climbed topside and entered the tower unnoticed. Passing through the front hall, he heard the sound of drums and chanting echoing everywhere. Somewhere close, the cult was gathered for some kind of ceremony. He moved fast, finding few guards patrolling the halls—cutting down those he did with brutal efficiency—and followed the pulsing drums and cursed chanting.

Images of Elena bombarded his mind. Her hair … her skin … her eyes … her smile …

He found the source of the noise in a vast opening. Disciples surrounded a central altar where a young girl with light hair, wearing only a thin white gown, was chained. And standing over her, with a silver dagger in his hand: High Cleric Moore.

Upon seeing him, Law’s rage could no longer be contained. His empty heart roared for vengeance. Memories of Elena demanded justice. His sword cried for blood.

As Moore raised his dagger, ready to plunge it into the girl’s heart, the Undertaker charged …

* * *

Raven awoke to searing pain and the sound of crashing waves. She almost turned over, only to find another few inches was open air and the ocean two hundred feet below. Regaining her bearings, she found after the degenerate that attacked her had thrown her from the cliff, she was caught in a pocket of rock only ten feet below the summit—saved from falling by a crevice slightly bigger than her entire body.

Apparently, the Grace hadn’t completely abandoned her just yet.

She re-positioned herself, the cuts and wounds inflicted upon her stinging like acid as she hugged the jagged cliff wall. Being an Elf, most of her injuries were already healing, but she still lost a lot of blood—leaving her lightheaded and nauseated—and, although the crevice saved her, the landing also damaged her back and neck. She remained perched on the small ledge, trying to will herself the energy to climb back up and finish the job.

Following the kidnapping of his daughter, King Thehma’s first instinct was to send forth all the armies of Murdok after her. But his advisors warned against such action for fear of attack from their rival nation Vellok. He instead sent a small battalion of his best warriors after the Disciples of Moros to rescue the Princess. When they failed, the King was desperate for anyone to save his daughter.

Even a lone Elven pariah turned mercenary.

Raven believed it providence she happened to be in the area. She already knew of the Disciples of Moros—and the dark god they sought to revive—and knew where their tower was located. Seeing a chance to stop their evil once and for all, and perhaps finally regain her lost honor, she offered to rescue the Princess, confident there would be no challenge she couldn’t handle.

What she hadn’t counted on was the Disciples hiring a mercenary of their own to act as bodyguard and eliminate anyone who would disrupt the ceremony. Raven was caught by the villain as she made her way through the woods. He called himself the Jackal and was a small, trollish man with light, scruffy hair, beady eyes, and a face riddled with scars. He leered and grinned at her with a look that revealed deranged bloodlust—a man who killed for the pleasure of it as much as any payment.

Their battle was long and brutal, but for all her skills, she could not match the degenerate’s viciousness. It was not enough to defeat her, he took the time and pleasure to inflict as much pain upon on her as he could. His weapon of choice was a pair of gauntlets with long, razor-sharp claws, and after indulging his savagery, he threw her from the Blind Cliffs.

Blocking out the pain, she managed to climb back atop the summit. Every fiber of her being wanted to remain there and recover her strength, but looking to the sky, she saw she had little time to spare. The Great Tail was almost in front of the moon. Fortunately, the fiend that attacked her hadn’t taken or thrown away her sabre. Steeling herself, she pressed on until she found the tower.

Studying the lone bridge from her position, Raven knew she couldn’t fight so many alone. Since rescuing the Princess was her top priority, even if she wasn’t already weakened, stealth was the best course. Scanning the structure and the precipice it stood upon, she noticed a few barred windows in the base and deduced dungeons must be built beneath the main tower. If she could get in through there, that would be the ideal place to infiltrate.

She estimated the distance to be no more than a hundred feet, and readied her bow with an arrow and rope tied. Despite being damaged, she could still hit her mark—the trick was timing it so she could fire and glide across without being spotted by the guards on the bridge. Like Law before her, she studied their patrol and calculated an opening where she could make her move.

She fired the arrow downward to the precipice across the water, pausing to make sure the shot went unnoticed, and fastened the other end taut to the cliff edge. Waiting again for the opening in the patrol, she used her bow to glide down the line, sailing through the open air and bracing herself for when she reached the other side. Her feet slammed into the rock with a thud, even with her Elven grace, but the sound was drowned out by the waves below.

Shaking off the shock to her legs, she dislodged the arrow and let the line drop to prevent it from being seen by the guards. Hugging the rock side, she made her way to one of the barred windows, though her progress was slow from her injuries.

Elves are naturally stronger and more resilient than most other races, but her battle with the Jackal had done its damage. Her cuts and gashes burned, some unable to close from scraping against the harsh rock. She was sweating and dizziness threatened to overwhelm her. By the time she reached the window, Raven feared she didn’t have the strength left to pry open the bars—much less rescue the Princess and escape. She stopped there, struggling to control her breathing and will some power back.

Long ago, her name was Aria Lenora, the daughter of a proud Elven warrior line. Great things were expected of her, as there were of all Elves, and even among her peers, Aria excelled. Her fighting skills were unsurpassed, and she displayed intuition and clairvoyance far beyond other Elves. She was a jewel among her kind, and Aria was all too eager to live up the expectations of her people.

Tragically, it was her eagerness that led to her downfall. For all her perception, she failed to realize she was being deceived until it was far too late, and many were killed as a result. Because of her folly, she was stripped of her name, branded a pariah, and cast out—left to wander the land, using her talents for lowly mercenary work and hoping of the day she might regain her honor.

Fighting off the latest wave of dizziness, Raven looked to the sky and saw the Great Tail was almost in front of the moon. Time was running out.

The window looked into a stone stairway, lit with a few torches. With no guards in sight, she concentrated all her power on prying loose one of the bars. It was not often she had to rely on brute force, but it was in an Elf’s ability to focus their inner strength. She needed to dig deep, but the bar loosened and she ripped the beam from the rock holding it in place, leaving an opening just wide enough for her to slip through.

The smell of salt water was even more potent in the confined space of the hall. She sat crouched against the wall and drew her sabre, expecting a swarm of Disciples to attack. But to her surprise, all was still and calm. No guards in sight and no alarms raised—only the sound of crashing waves outside.

Taking tentative steps, Raven went down the stairway intent on seeing whether the Princess was in the dungeon. Reaching the foot of the stairs, she encountered some guards … or what was left of them. Lining the dank hall, she found the bodies of four Disciples slashed and cut to pieces with what must have been a large weapon. It would appear, she realized, she wasn’t the only mercenary on a job tonight.

She had little time to consider whether this was to her advantage or not, as she began to hear the sound of drums and chanting echo from the tower above. If the ceremony was beginning, then that was where the Princess would be. Wasting no time, she took an extra sword from one of the fallen guards and rushed up the stairs, praying she wasn’t too late.

She reached the tower and passed the center courtyard where most of the Disciples had gathered to seek a higher vantage point. She found an empty balcony that granted her an overview of the court where the Disciples circled around a central altar with the Princess chained to a stone slab. High Cleric Moore stood over her, preparing to make the sacrifice.

There was no time left. She armed her bow and aimed for Moore’s heart. She didn’t know what she planned to do when she fired, but if nothing else, the ceremony needed to be stopped. If she was to die this night, she would die for the good of the world.

As Moore raised his dagger to strike, Raven pulled back on the bow and took aim …

* * *

Princess Anna was a pretty, young thing. She was a petite girl in her late teens with smooth, light skin and long golden hair. Her large, hazel eyes were wide with terror and despair as the Disciples of Moros dressed and prepared her for the coming ceremony. But beneath the fear, her eyes also revealed an innocent naiveté, unaware of the harsh, cruel realities of the world. They told a story of a sheltered girl who never knew a day of hardship or want.

The man known only as the Jackal stood by the doorway of her chamber, entertaining himself with imaginary scenarios in which he could be left alone with her. He would describe them as “educating” her in the ways of the world. All involved her screaming. Unfortunately, Moore had made it clear the Princess was to be unspoiled. He accepted the orders, for as much as he wanted her, he wanted the see the Final Dragon revived even more.

Little was known about his past or even his real name, but the Jackal advertised himself as a mercenary. A more accurate description would be he was a psychopath for hire. Among most bounty hunters and hired killers, he was a man of notorious reputation, commonly agreed to give mercenaries a bad name—erratic, needlessly violent, and a fiend. The Jackal’s services were most valued by those who sought a bloodbath.

Despite his dubious reputation, he was the only one willing to fight on behalf of the Disciples of Moros where most mercenaries regarded them as a crazed doomsday cult and wanted nothing to do with them. The Jackal’s employment was not ideal, and most of the Disciples were rightfully wary of him, but High Cleric Moore recognized that for all the Jackal’s bloodlust and depravity, he could be kept under control with the promise of seeing the Final Dragon rise again. Moore understood he was a man that only felt alive when the world was coming down around him, and the one thing that could keep him in line was the promise of chaos.

It was that promise that held the Jackal’s lust in check. He’d let the little Princess be if it meant fire and blood later.

“Sir,” said one of the Disciples behind him. “High Cleric Moore wants you to patrol the tower.” The little grunt looked sheepish, and his voice grew weaker as the Jackal approached him. “D-during the ceremony,” he continued, “he wants you to stand guard from a high vantage point. And … and be ready for … any …”

He trailed off as the Jackal grinned at him as though he wanted to cut his throat—a thought that indeed crossed his mind. Instead, he gave a mocking bow and said, “I am at the master’s command.” He took one last leer at the Princess, let out a laugh that sounded more like a snarl, and shoved the Disciple aside to begin his patrol. There would be time for pleasure later.

His fight with the Elf woman would have to satisfy for the time being. After the Disciples brought the Princess, the Jackal was sent on patrol through the woods. Soldiers from Murdok were expected, and some guards claimed to have seen the Enforcer lurking about. He would’ve welcomed either. But she was a pleasant surprise—spilling Elf blood was always his favorite.

Common among most Elves, she was a beautiful specimen—tall and slender, with blue hair, and a gorgeous, athletic body. But contrary to most the Jackal had encountered, there was bleakness to this one. Her clothing and countenance were dark, where most Elves favored lighter colors that reflected their ethereal qualities. From what little of their culture he knew, dark colors among Elves were usually a sign of the cursed or unwanted.

Elven fighting styles are revered throughout the land for their speed and balletic movements, but if one observes and studies them enough, they all essentially fight the same. The woman was no different, slashing and attacking as though she was in a dance. Where most might’ve fallen, the Jackal took her apart like clockwork. It was always a joy to cut down Elves and make them crawl. He would’ve taken more time with her, but duty before pleasure was the motto for the day, so he settled for throwing her from the cliffs.

The Jackal patrolled the halls and checked on the front bridge. Aside from the Elf, and an assassin the guards caught in the dungeon, there appeared to be no troubles—though the night was young. With everything in order, he found himself a perch on a balcony overlooking the center courtyard. It was a large open auditorium of concrete, marble, and stone. Numerous Disciples scurried about, making final preparations for the ceremony. In the center was the altar where Princess Anna would be sacrificed.

According to Moore, when Moros was finished purging the world, the Disciples would rebuild, but the Jackal had no interest in that. It was fire and chaos that excited him. A world of anarchy and darkness, where only the strongest and most savage could survive—that was the paradise he sought. To him, that was where true freedom lay. No law … no structure … no hope …

The sound of drums signaled the beginning of the ceremony. The Disciples circled the altar, all in perfect symmetry and organization. At the far end, a line of robed figures emerged from the tower, dragging the screaming Princess Anna behind them. She struggled and shrieked for help, trying to free herself from their grip. The rest of the cult broke into chanting—some kind of prayer worshiping Moros—as she was carried to the altar and chained to the marble shrine.

Moore followed, silver dagger in hand and face pulled back in an eager grin. Anna continued screaming, calling them all mad and cursing them, while Moore stepped atop the altar. He raised his hands and began bellowing some spiel about Moros and how long the cult had awaited this day.

As the High Cleric gave his speech, the Jackal spotted movement atop one of the tower walls. He crept from his balcony to get a better look and found it was the Elf woman. He moved in to stop her, but paused upon seeing a commotion by the front side of the courtyard where an armored man wielding a massive Bastard Sword was cutting down several Disciples on his way toward Moore.

Ordinarily, the Jackal welcomed battle of any kind, but he couldn’t abide interference. He wanted Moros. His claws thirsted for blood. Then and there, he decided he’d sacrifice the Princess himself if he had to.

As Moore raised his dagger, the Jackal hissed and pounced …

* * *

The smell of seawater was mixed with the stale air of a dank cave. The crash of waves echoed all around. Scythe awoke with the damp, cold floor on his cheek. He coughed, put off by the smell of salt water, and shook the cobwebs from his head. He was in a small, bare room with only a barred window to his right and metal door to his left. Recalling his situation, he groaned and cursed to himself.

“Like a goddamn amateur,” he grumbled.

Infiltrating the tower by crossing the water and entering through the dungeons seemed like a good idea. The guards weren’t watching the sea, and no one would expect someone from the bottom. Scythe had managed to reach the base before the waves got too violent and had no trouble climbing the cliff. He slipped in through one of the lower windows—not unlike Raven would later—took out one of the guards and disguised himself to move around.

All went smoothly. All he needed to do was get to the Princess, kill her, and be on his way.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t counted on the extra security measures High Cleric Moore enacted for the ceremony. Knowing how easy it would be for outsiders to disguise themselves, all Disciples learned a special salute and saying to ensure only true brothers and sisters would be present for the sacrifice.

When confronted by this, Scythe considered a different approach might’ve been better. Caught off guard and mobbed by too many in close quarters, he was overwhelmed and taken prisoner—kept alive only to be fed to Moros upon its revival.

Scythe, one of the last Lann-Deiridh, had been captured like an amateur. Reflecting on this, he cursed to himself again.

The blow to his ego aside, Scythe had no intention of remaining still. He still had a job to do. Checking outside the door, he found five armed guards patrolling the hall. At the far end, he saw his personal double-bladed scythe, Death-Dealer, and the rest of his weapons left in the corner. The door was solid steel with rusted hinges and could be kicked down—given time he didn’t have. The barred window was no more reinforced than the one he used to get in, but he wouldn’t be able to get the bars out before the guards caught him.

That gave him an idea.

He went to the dungeon window and using his Lann-Deiridh training, which was not all too different from the Elves—though neither people would ever admit it—he tore out a bar from the solid rock.

“What are you doing?” shouted one of the guards outside.

“Leaving,” said Scythe, making like he was going to rip another bar out.

Behind him, he heard the cell being unlocked and, with a smirk, slammed the steel door into the entering guard. He smashed the guard between the door and wall a few more times before plunging the bar into his throat. The remaining four guards began shouting and trying to rush in at once, but couldn’t form any leverage in the tight space.

Scythe, while muscular, was lean and agile. Wearing the lightweight gray and black leather common among the Lann-Deiridh, he was able to use their weight against them and slip out. Wasting no time, he grabbed Death-Dealer and turned to face the Disciples. Two of the guards were armed with swords, one with a battle-axe, and the last with a spear. But due to the narrow dimensions of the hall, they couldn’t surround him, and he picked them off with ease.

Death-Dealer swung and cut with deadly efficiency, even with its great size in the narrow hall. Within moments, each Disciple was cut to pieces.

“See what happens when you face a true Lann-Deiridh,” he said, brushing his long, black hair out of his face. The guards dead, Scythe checked the window and saw the Great Tail was almost in front of the moon—his deadline—and rushed out of the dungeon.

His employers in Vellok were explicit that Princess Anna be killed before the comet passed the moon and, most important, not from a certain dagger in the High Cleric’s possession. They spoke of some ancient prophecy involving dragon gods and the end of the world, but Scythe didn’t pay much attention to the details. He hadn’t even heard of the Disciples of Moros before his took the job.

All that mattered was he had a target.

There was a time when it was said the warlord that could afford the service of the Lann-Deiridh knew no defeat. But that was a long time ago—before they were driven to near extinction. Scythe had trained in his people’s arts from his childhood and grew up determined to live up to his clan’s memory. He would remind the world the Lann-Deiridh were to be feared and respected.

Death-Dealer in hand, he rushed up the stairs leading to the tower. He encountered a handful of guards along the way, cutting them down before they could react, but otherwise found moving easy enough. Reaching the main tower, he came across the courtyard where the majority of Disciples were gathering. From the look of it, the ceremony was about to begin, so Scythe—like Raven would shortly after—went further up the tower to find a better view.

By the time he found a balcony overlooking the courtyard, the drums had begun. Hundreds of Disciples circled the stone altar, chanting to Moros, while Princess Anna was dragged forward and chained down. High above, the Great Tail was almost in front of the moon, and the High Cleric began some grandiose speech about Moros and the purging of the world.

There wasn’t much time left. Scythe would’ve preferred doing things more efficiently, but he was ready and willing for a bloodbath. He had no fear of these fanatics—he was a Lann-Deiridh.

Gripping Death-Dealer, he prepared to charge and make straight for the High Cleric, cutting down any who stood in his way. Time was up. No time to think—only to act.

As Moore raised his dagger, Scythe made his move …

* * *

“It is time.”

The Great Tail was in position, eclipsing the moon. Outside the tower, wind howled and swelled, while below, the red ocean crashed against the rocks. Thunder rumbled like a growling animal waiting to be awakened. Yet the tower’s courtyard was calm and still, like the eye of a hurricane. The drums began, followed by the rhythmic chanting of the Disciples, signaling the ceremony had begun.

Princess Anna fought as best she could, but the girl couldn’t resist being pulled forward by her captors. Since being taken from her home, she hoped and prayed this was all some horrific nightmare. Something she’d wake up from just in time, in her soft bed, safe in her chamber. She shrieked and pleaded for some kind of help, but the robed figures remained still, only chanting their incessant prayers to Moros.

Donovan Moore followed the procession, his silver dagger held behind his back. Save for an assassin the guards caught in the dungeons and an Elf woman the Jackal dealt with, there had been no trouble. At long last, the time had come. After spending his life waiting for this day, Moros would rise.

Anna was chained to the altar, and he took his place at the head. “Please!” she screamed. “Please! Let me go! Don’t do this! Somebody!”

The congregation’s chanting hushed as Moore raised his hands, dagger in hand. He looked up to the eclipsed moon and began, “My brothers! Sisters! The day we have long awaited has come! After centuries of slumber, by my hand, our God, Moros—the legendary Final Dragon—shall live again! And with His rebirth, the world shall be purged! The nonbelievers and infidels will be consumed in His divine fire!”

“You people are insane!” Anna shrieked. “All of you are out of your damn minds!”

“From the ashes,” Moore continued, “we shall rebuild! Remake the world as it should be! A new paradise of purity and peace!”

In his heart, he could hear Moros goading him on. Demanding he strike and bring forth the Final Dragon. All had been leading to this moment. There was no more delay.

The moment of truth had arrived.

Moore raised his dagger ….


©2017 by M. Walsh

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