Tuesday, May 28, 2024

DARK HOURS, a Fantasy Romance by Linda Mooney - Chapter 5

Posted by: Linda Mooney


Chapter 5 

            Kayge stared in horror as the dragon lifted its face, extending its neck so that the bulge could slide from its throat into its gullet. His mind continued to deny what his eyes were witnessing, even though his heart knew it for the truth. He threw a hand out toward the creature as it continued to undulate its neck, forcing Emers’ body downward.


            He tried to get to his feet, but his body wouldn’t obey. Helpless, he watched the dragon make one last effort to swallow. The swelling in its throat finally dropped, and the creature opened its mouth to belch.

            “No! No, no!” He managed to turn onto his side but his muscles remained rubbery and weak. Useless. Rolling onto his face against the cold packed earth, Kayge fought not to cry as his body refused to obey. “Get up, damn you! Get up!

            A hawking sound caught his attention. It was a sound he’d heard many times before, but not from a winged beast. Opening his eyes, he watched the thing hunch over until its chin rested on the ground. Its stomach heaved, and the thought that it might be trying to regurgitate Emers flashed through his mind.

            Struggling, Kayge somehow managed to turn onto his side. The dragon made several more hard coughing noises, when its jaws spread open as far as they could. A mass of something poured onto the dirt. Something grayish that shimmered in the sunlight. Something hard that fell in lumps.

            He eyed the vomit, searching for sign of Emers’ body. For something that resembled an arm or a leg. The mass had none of it.

            Glancing back at the thing, he saw the creature staring at him with one eye, and he’d swear he saw a smile peel back a portion of the dragon’s mouth.

            “You fiend! You abomination!

            He knew if the dragon could laugh, it would have. It seemed to be taunting him with its cruelty. Delighting in his misery.

            “This is not over!” Kayge swore to it. “I will kill you! I will slit your throat and bathe in your blood!”

            The animal took a few steps back, then turned and leaped into the sky. Knowing that all he could do was watch it fly away, Kayge kept his eyes on the thing. As it banked and came back around, an eerie voice came from overhead. A voice he thought he recognized, except this one was high-pitched and raspy.

            Follow me!

          Kayge gulped. He’d never heard of a dragon that could speak. Roar, yes. Bellow and howl as they normally do. But never speak a language.


           It swooped over him, almost sweeping the tips of its leathery wings across his skin. It gave him one more steely glare with its crimson eyes, then straightened and took off. Taking a direct path…

        Kayge doublechecked its flight path. If it continued in that direction, it was heading toward…

Toward Noranye.

            As incredible as it seemed, Kayge would swear the dragon wanted him to follow it back to Noranye.

            He gritted his teeth. “Aye, I will follow you back to that cursed town! I will follow you anywhere you want me to go, if only to avenge my beloved Emers. To make you pay!” he yelled at the departing creature.

Kayge groaned loudly. His arms were twisted in an unnatural position beneath his body, and little stilettoes of pain were slicing up and down his muscles to let him know they were about to fall asleep on him. After much effort, he dragged himself into a semi-sitting position as his mind fumbled about blindly, trying to grasp every sliver of reality.

A sudden gust of wind wrapped him in a grip of ice. His knee-jerk reaction was to draw his limbs against his body to try and preserve heat. It was then he realized he was completely naked and covered in some kind of slimy substance.


He blinked. His mind still felt groggy, as if he’d spent the night drinking and had fallen asleep in the arms of Bacchus. The inside of his mouth felt incredibly filthy, his tongue like a lump of clay. He ran a hand over his face to try and rub some sensation back into it. A slow thread of shock wove through him when he saw the smear of blood on his palm. Another swipe over his mouth, and more blood came away at his touch. Blood mixed with that clear, gel-like…

Phlegm, his brain informed him. It’s dragon phlegm.

Whirling around, he stared at the mounds of what the thing had vomited.

“I was vomited up,” he said aloud, if only to hear himself voice the truth. “I was vomited up so it…” The next part was like a dagger to the heart. “It vomited me up to make room for my Emers.”

Lifting his face to the sky, he screamed her name. Venting his pain and despair until his voice was no longer his own. Only then did he allow himself to rest until he was able to perform his next task.

He faced another struggle before he was able to get on his feet. Despite the blasts of frigid air trying to knock him over, Kayge’s soldier instincts and training took over. For the moment he was unmindful of the weather.

The day had been born not too long ago. The sun had already cleared the distant mountain peaks and was now ascending higher in the sky. A quick check in the direction where the dragon had gone showed no sign of the thing, but Kayge knew he hadn’t dreamt it. The fact that he was here in the condition he was in, and Emers was gone, was proof he hadn’t imagined the encounter.

In all directions he could see gently rolling hills that, in the warmer months, would have been covered with hay or grain crops. Now they were only stubbled fields. Barren but for the occasional tree or large rocky cluster.

A sound from behind him made him whirl around in a crouching position. Immediately he felt a flood of relief. A small fire was burning itself out. The sound of charred logs falling over the embers was what had alerted him.

He paused, locking onto a nearby dark red object. He recognized it as a cloak, his woolen cloak lying across a fallen log, as if the person who had been wearing it had tossed it there and forgotten about it. Glancing around, Kayge saw that he was alone. Just as Emers had been alone.

But where was here? Where was this place?

Another gust of wind made his muscles spasm from the cold. Kayge went to retrieve the cloak. As he passed by the mound of vomitus, he nearly tripped over a pair of boots lying nearby.

“By the saints!”

Examining the mucus-covered remains more closely, he identified his uniform, his chain mail, and his armor. Vaguely, he recalled Emers wearing his clothing, but it hadn’t imprinted on his brain during his initial awakening. Now he could tell that, although the dragon had swallowed her whole, it had been forced to regurgitate that which wasn’t flesh.

The objects were sticky from the drying slime, but he had no choice if he wanted to keep from freezing to death. He winced as he noticed parts of his uniform were still warm—either from Emers’s body or from the dragon’s. It didn’t matter.

Once he was dressed, Kayge wrapped himself in the cloak for warmth and reached for the boots. They weren’t his, nor were they Emers’s, making him wonder who they belonged to. They were a tight fit, even after pulling out the bundles of dried grass stuffed inside them. But they would do until he could find more suitable ones to wear.

A sudden fit of coughing overtook him. Kayge tried to muffle the sound, but his throat felt like he’d swallowed sand. From the corner of his eye, he could see what looked like a water skin lying near the dying campfire a few meters away. Quickly he strode over and grabbed it. The skin was half-full. The water was cold and tasted better than anything he could remember. It also washed away the remaining threads of bile from his throat. Wiping his hand across his mouth, Kayge glanced around.

The horses were nowhere to be seen. He fleetingly wondered if the dragon had consumed them as well. At the thought of the creature, Kayge turned to face the route the creature had taken, and fierce determination strengthened him. Almost at the same time, that eerie voice whispered in his ear.

            Come find me! Emers needs you!

            He shuddered. Emers needed him? “She needs me? Does that mean she is not dead? Does that mean she still lives?”

He was answered with the ghost of more maniacal cackling.

            You are alive, are you not?

            The truth gripped him with icy talons. The dragon had swallowed him! The dragon had consumed him the same way it consumed Emers, except it didn’t have enough room for the both of them. It made sense now. It had vomited him up to make room for her.

            But why? Why make the switch?

            “Emers. My beautiful Emers. If there is the slightest chance you are still alive…”

            Iron resolve sent heat through his body, strengthening his bones and muscles, and giving him the clarity he needed.

            “I am coming for you, you beast from Hell! I am coming for you, and I will relieve you of my Emers even if I have to shove my arm down your cursed throat and pull her out myself!” He shook his fist at the horizon. “I am coming for you! Do you hear me? I am coming for you!


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