Flash Fiction Challenge: Amarathine Firestorm

This story was written in response to a 1,000 word prompt to write a story based on two sets of randomly drawn words that created a title. The challenge was to then fit the story around the title. My two words were ‘Amaranthine’ and ‘Firestorm.’  This challenge is sponsored by Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds blog.

I had a lot of fun writing this and it was a nice reprieve from the more serious topic of my current book about my bipolar son. I hope you enjoy it.  I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Sweat tricked down Dedrick’s spine. A few drops clung to the small of her back. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand and coughed. Her chest heaved and lungs burned. The smoke and ash were contaminating the air her body needed. She could taste the wood that lingered in the ash. The fires had been burning for three days. Dedrick knew she had to keep moving. The village was still thirty miles away.

The screams and images of the last village she passed through flared up in her mind. Her stomach convulsed. She had reached the thatched huts after the flames had begun to eat them. A woman had run from one of the huts, her face blackened by ash and smeared with tears. The woman clutched a bundle to her breast. She tripped as she ran toward Dedrick. Dedrick dashed forward reaching out her arms. She bent lower as the woman continued to fall. Dedrick’s center of gravity passed the point of no return, and she launched herself forward. Her feet left the ground, and she flopped onto the sunbaked dirt. Her four silver daggers pressed against her ribs. The woman’s bundle rolled into Dedrick’s waiting arms. The blanket unwound as the bundle came to a stop. Dedrick’s stomach lurched with smell of scorched flesh and the sticky wetness against her upturned face.

The child’s skin was a violent red, blistered, and peeling away from the underlying tissue. Dedrick fought the urge to fling the charred corpse away from her. She gently wrapped the bundle in the blanket and placed it back into its mother’s arms. Her eyes skittered across the devastation before her. Charcoal, embers, and crumpled bodies littered the streets. The roaring flames and cries of the dying blotted out all the other noise, including the voice in her head urging her on. Time froze while Dedrick had stood there, paralyzed by the destruction laid before her. She could do nothing.

The day before, Dedrick had kneeled at her king’s side. His eyes sprung open. Blood bubbled from his lips as he spoke, “Dedrick! You must reach the Queen. Warn her Dedrick.”

His commanding voice was failing him. He coughed. Flecks of blood splattered on Dedrick’s face.

“The mages.” His voice was a fading whisper as his last breath left his body.

The far off mages had seen her crouched at his side. The Black Robes’ magic fire arched between their outstretched hands, and they directed it, in a cascade, toward the fallen king. She scrambled to remove his crown, ring, and sword as drops of fire rain singed her cropped dark hair. Clinging to the items, as if they were her soul, she began to run.

A tree crashed to the ground on her right showering her with hot embers and bringing her back to the present. Dedrick shook her head to clear the smoke and began to run again. Hot ash swirled around her face. Leaves and branches fell to the ground spreading the mage fire farther than she had thought possible.

The granite-chiseled stone of the castle’s battlements came into view above the deep green of the forest’s canopy. Of course, the queen would see the fire coming, but the river would stop it from reaching the castle. It wasn’t the fire that the king had wanted the queen warned of. It was the mages. The river would not stop the Black Robes.

She dashed into the small village of Tammirack. She called out to the villagers, but her voice came as a crackling whisper. She ran from door to door pounding with her fist.

“Get out! Run!” she said. The people peered out of their doorways and saw the firestorm moving toward their homes. Their eyes became wide with fear. They looked back at Dedrick, and recognition flashed across their faces.

“You’re the king’s messenger,” they said, in quavering voices.

“The king is dead, there’s an army behind that firestorm. Get your families out. Run! Don’t look back,” Dedrick said.

It was all she could do. She set her feet in motion once again. This was the final village before the river. She hoped that at least some would escape. She didn’t know how they would manage it, but she had to believe they would survive. It’s what drove her on. Dedrick was born among the Amaranth tribe. The king’s messengers were selected from her tribe because of their unfading endurance and everlasting courage.

Her feet barely skimmed the earth’s surface as she passed trees, jumped logs, and crashed through streams. Her feet molded to the earth with each step. Branches scratched at her bare legs and arms. Only a few more miles, her lungs seared with effort, and her legs were heavy like iron. Vomit rose in her throat as she continued to push her body past what it believed it could accomplish.

The words of her dead father entered her mind, “We run until we deliver our message or we die empty of all that we are.” It was the Amaranthine way. She plunged into the shallows of the river unwilling to slow down before reaching its shore. The ferryman drew his sword and swung it, wild with surprise. His fear morphed into a clipped laugh, and he grabbed Dedrick’s collapsing form.

“Not yet Dedrick, you must reach the queen,” he said, splashing icy river water onto her face and mouth. She nodded and pushed herself onto her feet. She rested against him, as she boarded the ferry, and the six burly ferrymen began to tug the guide ropes.

The queen stood ready. She had known the mages would come for her. They’d been searching for her since she had escaped as a child. An abomination, the Black Robes had called her. All women born with magic were destroyed. She called upon her forbidden magic now. The waters of the river rose. A rolling crackling echoed as the water crystalized into glacial blue ice.

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