Patreon will not allow me to back date a post, so there’s a sequence break over on my Patreon page. This is the prologue, which takes place before The Goblin (the first installment of chapter one). Over here on the blog, you can read more about what started the writing of the book in the next post.
A bellowing screech blasted into the night, slicing the cold air, the sound rattling the tiles on the rooftops.
Crackling fire. The beating of enormous leathery wings. A green silhouette against the drop of the night sky, a bright white moon shining blue light down on flames of green that ate away at the wood, the iron, the cobbled streets. Fire in every corner.
Screams, frantic and bewildered. Confusion and the blurry fog of tears in the eyes of men and women, clutching their children, their animals, their clothing, anything they could hold while running.
A little girl, ragged breath sucked frantically into her chest, her beating heart pounding in her head, her vision a haze of madness, stumbled gracelessly into the street, tripping over her dress, and as she reached down to pluck a dangling ribbon from beneath her slipper, the sound came again.
A sound like steel twisting against itself, ripping the air to shreds, and a gust of heat blasted over the rooftops, rattling the trees and knocking over the carts. Food strewn about the street was flung up into the air from the force of it, in all corners there were flames, green flames eating the doorways, the signs, the merchant carts. Flowers crackled with green fire in the street.
The little girl tumbled forward from the blast. She landed flat on her stomach and her nose smacked hard against the cobbled street. She was vaguely aware that there was pain in her head somewhere, and her vision was now tinged with red. She fell helplessly onto her back and looked up into the sky.
Green embers over green flames, against a black sky, somewhere beyond the veil of smoke there were stars still shining thoughtlessly through.
She hoisted herself up onto her elbows and drew a breath that she could not quite hear, because all sound was now a hazy din, a high-pitched ringing somewhere inside her head. She looked up ahead, she could hear screaming in all directions, yet she saw only the empty street, its contents turned in on itself, lanterns and silk streamers and placards piled on fruit and toys. The ghastly accoutrements of festivity tossed lazily into a swarm of nightmarish fever.
There was a figure against the sky, green as the flames. It was not quite solid, and yet it was corporeal. Glowing lights where a face might be, the shape of wings unfurled, and the body a mass of green flame. Beneath the two lights, the flaming shape of jagged teeth as a jaw opened, and the bellowing screech came again, accompanied by a river of flame in all shades of green, ribbons of emerald searing across the wind.
She held up a hand instinctively to shield herself.
Flames ripped across the rooftops and into every quarter of the city. In the distance a castle was burning, green fire rising from the windows. Emerald smoke hovered in a humid vapor above the city. A trail of green fire burned down the central path of the city, and struck out at an odd angle, where it led into a square of burning trees.
Surrounded by flames, a man in dark armor held a child close against his breast, blood spilling across the metal plate and over his fingers, blood drenching the child’s back and his cotton shirt.
The king wept into his son’s neck, cradling the unconscious boy.
A woman’s voice shouted over the roaring inferno, “It must be done! He has brought the demon with him, it will not cede until he is dead!”
“Woman!” croaked the man, “You speak of your son!”
“My son has been consumed by a devil!” she wailed. The flames cast a flickering shadow onto the stones, that of a slender woman in a thin gown, tangled hair, thin fingers clutching the handle of a long knife.
The king lay the boy down on the stones. His eyes were still wide, though he saw nothing. His chest rose so gently it may not have moved at all.
The king’s eyes narrowed as he drew the sword from his side. He advanced upon her and there was a shriek, and the sound of flesh being pierced. The flickering shadows showed a woman run through with a sword, and a thin arm curving around to stab a knife into the man’s back. A guttural moan as they both fell.
The little boy’s eyes were bright blue, and his gaze held nothing at all, his thoughts somewhere far away from the heat and the fear. Blood pooled around his body, his arm flung to the side and his fingers twitching as if to grasp something that was not there.
There was a clicking of boots, the slow steps of one solitary figure, a mass of black cloak and long dark hair against the bright green of the fire. A man knelt down by the boy, his unkempt hair dangling over his eyes.
“Little prince,” he whispered, “Life has more for you yet than this.”
The man’s gloved hands scooped the boy up in one fluid motion, and his cloak whipped behind him as he walked directly into the green flame, and through it.
Green sparks fell over the dying bodies of the husband and wife who lay gasping on the stones. Green sparks whirled up into the night sky.
There was silence, but for crackling fire and a thunderous, croaking growl.