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Let Them Burn (Part 1)
I ran. Smoke billowed around me and violent coughs shook my shoulders. "Kia!" I rasped against my burning throat. "Kia!"
A wooden beam collapsed in front of me, throwing sparks and hot air in my face. I screamed and cringed away but I could feel the burning flakes of wood and ash blistering the left side of my face and down my neck.
"Kia! Kia, please! Where are you?" My voice was going and panic was setting in. I couldn't see. I couldn't breath. I couldn't find Kia. The rug beneath my feet had caught flame forcing me to cling to the hot stone wall. I would never find her. The castle was too big. The realization that neither of us would make it out began to cripple my resolve.
What was the point of continuing on? Kia was deep inside the castle, and if I was being completely honest I had gotten myself lost. My head was swimming and cloudy and keeping my eyes open was starting to prove difficult. I pressed my back to the wall and slid down to my knees, wrapping my arms around them. Here wouldn't be so bad, right? It could be worse.
Another round of harsh coughs shook my entire body and scratched my throat like steel wool. The crackling and hiss of angry fire drowned out my whimpers and red hot tears ran down my sweaty face. "Kia," I whispered. "Kia..." words became a jumbled up slur of what little voice I had left. My breathing was slow and shallow as I drifted. "Kia," did I say that out loud? I thought had. It was almost comforting; drifting off to sleep. I just wish Kia were here so I could wrap my arms around her neck one last time. We could drift together. Her smooth scales and that deep rumble that always vibrated her body would put one last smile on my lips that were chapped and painful now.
It was so hard to stay awake. Maybe I should just give in. Maybe I should...
More coughs rattled my bones and I rolled over onto my side to let spit and bile work its way up. My throat and nostrils burned so much I was sure I spat blood as well as I hacked my brains out. I continued to choke on my own air when it dawned on me. I was sitting in grass. How had I gotten outside? I gasped for breath but more and more coughs refused to let my lungs have a break.
After what seemed like an eternity I had finally caught a second to rest. I lay back in the grass, wincing at the pain every breath caused. Shakily I wiped sweat from my forehead and upper lip. My eyes burned but I tried to take in my surroundings.
The castle wasn't far because the glow of the fire lit up the night sky. Relief was like a hard brick hitting me in the chest when I looked to my left and saw Kia. Her head was low to the ground and her ears flat to her head. She stared at me with intense concern but began to anxiously whip her tail when she saw I'd finally noticed her.
Smoke seeped from her nostrils and her claws dug into the dirt. She must have been the cause of the fire, but why? Kia never loses control.
I slowly reached for her; putting what little strength I had into the movement. "You're safe," I rasped. That broke the seal. She leaped to her feet and hurried over to me, using her tail to lift me into an upright position. I groaned against the effort but didn't push her away.
"What happened?" I whispered more to myself than to my dragon.
And that's when I saw it. Saw them. Eastern Region dragons. Dragons of the Region of War, circling over top the castle. Their colors known for being dark, deep versions of our Western dragons. Deep purples and greens and blues made them hard to spot at night, but the light from the fire shimmered off their scales making them sparkle.
This was an attack. Not only on the me, but on the Kingdom. The Eastern Region had caught wind of our loss. The king and queen, lost at sea. Rumors suggested Easterners was behind their disappearance. They knew we were weak, but no one had expected them to strike. We'd been at peace for over three hundred years, but it seems they'd just been waiting for the most opportune time.
I clutched my chest as I realized I would have to take action. Assemble an army, take charge. It was my duty now that my parents were gone. I was too young for this; not nearly ready. The people would expect retaliation; protection. How could I offer that to them?
I looked at Kia as she kept eye on the intruders above. I could tell every cell of her body was telling her to fly, to fight. It was her nature to protect her rider. But she wouldn't dare leave me side.
"We'll get them," I promised. "We'll get them all."