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Authors: R.M. Prioleau

Enflamed (Book 2) (6 page)

BOOK: Enflamed (Book 2)
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Three more trolls emerged from
the shadows and encircled the group, snarling and drooling on the muddy ground.

Kaijin glanced at each of the
towering monsters. “
Flamm annul!
” A ring of white fire appeared,
encircling Kaijin, Nester, and Aidan. “Keep back!” he yelled at the monsters.

The trolls cringed and kept
their distance from the flames, but showed no signs of leaving. The intense
bright flames slowly transitioned to a steady, flickering, amber hue.

“What is happening?” Aidan
exclaimed, rubbing some of the liquid substance from his eyes. He spotted the
roaring flames and winced.
“Kaijin!
Nester!”
He reached out, feeling for his comrades.

Kaijin rushed over, grabbed
Aidan’s hand, and tugged him toward the center of the fiery circle. “Stay right
here.”

“We can’t keep this up,
Kaijin!” Nester called over his shoulder. “We need to get rid of these soddin’
things fast before even more come!”

Kaijin glared at Nester. “Do
you have any suggestions?”

Nester twirled his blades,
eyeing each creature. “I remember Grandpa Nepp encountered a troll once. Nasty bugger,
it was.
Wasn’t nearly as big as these things, though.
Said he managed to kill
th
’ thing, but I forgot ’ow.”

Kaijin rolled his eyes. “Well
that doesn’t help, now does it?”

“Let Aidan handle it,” Aidan
said.

Both Kaijin and Nester looked
at him.

Aidan rubbed his eyes again
and tried to open them further. He advanced slowly toward the snarling
creatures.

“Aidan! Wait!” Kaijin called.
He grabbed Aidan’s burly arm, but Aidan broke his grip with a quick flex.

The trolls eagerly awaited
Aidan on the other side of the fire ring. Their claws extended, the monsters
appeared ready to pounce on him like a pack of hungry wolves.

Aidan stopped at the edge of
the ring before the creatures. After a moment, he closed his eyes again, took a
deep breath, and barreled through the scorching heat, parts of his leathery
skin catching fire. He collided with the cluster of trolls, who also caught
some of the blaze.

Kaijin watched in awe as Aidan
blindly fought each of the creatures with his bare hands, clawing at them,
ripping through rubbery flesh and hurling them into the ring of fire. The
monsters howled in pain. Panic resounded in the creatures’ guttural voices as
they frantically searched for a means of escape.

The creatures scrambled about,
seemingly oblivious to everything but Aidan. Nester smirked at Kaijin as he
twirled his blades. “Looks like
Aidan’s
made it easy
for us, now, eh? Look at them! They’re runnin’ around like they just seen a
ghost!”

Kaijin observed the monsters
more closely. The scorch wounds on their skin didn’t appear to be healing.
Moreover, the monsters seemed terrified of the flames around them. The
phenomenon sparked a memory of his own childhood, during those endless days and
nights of study under his master’s watchful eye. He had learned about many
types of creatures—both the very strange and not so strange, the rare and
common—and how the concept of magic affected and influenced them.
Yes, of
course.
How could I possibly forget?

His lips curled into a smile
as he realized what he needed to do. “No, they don’t like fire too much, do
they?”

Nester cackled. “
Now
I
remember! Grandpa Nepp tossed ’is torch at th’ troll, and th’ thing burned up
like paper, it did! It was so scared o’ th’ fire, it ran around in circles ’til
it dropped dead. That’s when Grandpa Nepp ran like
th

’ells.”

Kaijin nodded to Nester and
smirked. “Open them up a bit.”

Nester twirled his blades
again. While the four trolls were disoriented, Nester charged at them and began
slashing new wounds across their bodies quicker than they realized what had
happened. Globs of green liquid oozed out of the wounds and mixed with the mud.

Their wounds began mending
again, and Nester gave a quick nod to Kaijin.

The air seemed to waver around
Kaijin, as if he were a furnace. The tempo of his pulsating necklace increased,
keeping pace with his racing heartbeat. Soon, his entire body erupted in
flames.

From the dark recesses of
Kaijin’s mind, a soothing voice broke through the maelstrom and directed his
fury.
“Obliterate them.”

He remembered the undead,
overtaking Easthaven—then the aftermath of the chaos, that destructive inferno.
Kaijin cracked a smile.

A fireball materialized in
Kaijin’s hands, and he hurled it toward the trolls, sending them fleeing and
snarling in panic. They didn’t get very far before they collapsed, one by one,
in the mud. A wall of flames burst over the heaps of fallen creatures and
devoured their bodies hungrily, leaving behind ashen remains.

Just as quickly as Kaijin felt
the fantastic sensation, it subsided, leaving him feeling somewhat
content—satisfied. He smiled faintly at the destruction. The fiery magic
dissipated, as did the ring of fire. He looked down at his own hands, which
emitted faint traces of white smoke.

He exhaled slowly and looked
to his comrades.

Aidan groaned and rolled over
on his back.
“Kaijin?
Nester?”

Nester ran over to Aidan,
dodging smoldering remains of troll in the mud along the way. “Aidan! They’re
gone!” He tugged at Aidan’s arm, beckoning him to stand. “Kaijin burned them to
a crisp, ’e did! You should’ve seen it!”

Aidan slowly stood to his
feet. He stared blankly toward Nester.

“Aidan? How are you feeling?”
Kaijin approached them.

Aidan’s eyes flickered. His
pupils were dilated, and the corneas were devoid of their silver tint. He turned
toward Kaijin and reached out to him. “You look like blurry blob.”

Kaijin frowned. “We’re in the
middle of a marsh. It will be a long walk back to town to try and find help.”

“What?!”
Nester exclaimed. “We can’t go back now! We just got
’ere! We still got some ruins to check, remember?”

Kaijin glared at the brownie.
“Aidan won’t be of any help if he can’t see a damn thing!”

“Well, uh ...” Nester thought
a moment. “’E can just stand there an’ look all intimidatin’ so no one’ll
bother us, aye?”

Kaijin rolled his eyes.

“Don’t worry,” Aidan said.
“Aidan will manage as best he can.”

“I
knew
this was going
to be a bad idea,” Kaijin muttered. He reached for Aidan’s massive, clawed
hand. “Take my hand, at least. I will help lead you through the marsh.”

Aidan nodded and gently
clasped Kaijin’s hand. With Nester leading the way, the three of them resumed
their walk through the muddy trail.

Aidan’s claws scraped Kaijin’s
skin, and Kaijin cringed. Beneath the remains of Aidan’s torn handwraps, Kaijin
spied many callouses. And yet, there was
a certain
gentleness about those hands.
He really is a man of peace
.

Kaijin’s silent musings were
interrupted by an excited Nester. “That was th’ most amazin’ thing I’d ever
seen, mate! No
wonder
th’ people in Faywald say
fiddlers are dangerous!”

“Let’s not get into that
again, Nester,” Kaijin warned.

“You gotta teach me that trick
sometime! I know a few sods
who
need a good burnin’, I
do! Maybe teach Aidan that trick, too! We’ll be unstoppable, I tell you! Not to
mention, filthy, soddin’ rich!”

Kaijin groaned.

 

 
 
 
 

V

 
 

The group emerged from the
veil of underbrush to view a stretch of wetland blanketed with a thick mist.
Broken columns and stone structures of various shapes and sizes, placed in a
crude circle, littered the area. Mold and ivy covered the majority of the
structures, affirming that the site remained undisturbed. Tiny fireflies
swarmed in slow circles, creating an eerie dim illumination that penetrated the
mist.

“What a serene place,” Kaijin
whispered under his breath.

Nester’s ears perked, and he
snorted. “‘Serene’? This place is spookier than my Aunt Netta when she wears
that ridiculous orange ruffled dress she got for ’er birthday three years ago!”

Kaijin chuckled.

A small figure moved amongst
the ruins. He squinted. Of a human shape, the figure walked the perimeter of
the ruins, stopping briefly at each structure.

He nudged Nester. “Hey, looks
like someone else is here.”

Nester followed Kaijin’s gaze
and cringed. “Told you this place is spooky, mate! That looks like a ghost over
there, it does!”

“Shouldn’t we see who or what
it is before we start searching?”

“Ah ... Ah ....
All right.
I’ll be right behind you!”

Aidan sniffed the air,
then
tilted his head curiously.
“Honeysuckle?”

Kaijin furrowed his brow at
the giant. “Excuse me?”

“Those flowers always smell so
nice,” Aidan said absently. “Where are we?”

“We’re at th’ ruins,” Nester
replied. “I assure you, mate: There ain’t no flowers around ’ere.”

A brief passing breeze carried
the wetlands’ moldy, mildew odor. Kaijin wrinkled his nose. “Yuck! Nester is
right.”

Aidan shook his head. “No,
Aidan is certain he smells honeysuckle. It is Aidan’s favorite flower.” He
released Kaijin’s hand and wandered ahead.

Kaijin watched Aidan a moment
before following. “Aidan, are you mad?! You can’t see! Where are you going?” He
halted when he realized the direction Aidan was walking.

The figure stopped and turned
toward them. Kaijin heard a soft female voice utter a string of phrases and saw
a flash of white light emit from her hands. Shining it at Aidan, she yelled,
“Stay back!”

Kaijin and Nester saw the
light from afar and shielded their eyes. The flash dissipated moments later.

“Oy!
Where’d those spots come from?” Nester grumbled,
swatting at the air. He stumbled around and ran into the back of Kaijin.

“Oof!” The spell’s dazzling
effects subsided, and Kaijin rubbed his eyes. “What was that?”

Aidan stopped in his tracks
and gazed at the source of the light, seemingly unfazed. “What are you doing
here, miss?” he asked politely.

The woman was taken aback.
“Who are you ...?”

Aidan smiled, bearing his
canines. “Well, we are not trolls,” he joked. “We are just out for nice walk.”

She warily regarded Kaijin and
Nester as they slowly approached.

Kaijin fixated on the strange
woman. Her tall, lithe body—perfectly proportioned—accentuated her graceful
movements and soft voice. Silken snow-white hair cascaded down her back. While
her pale face appeared young, he spotted a maturity in her sapphire eyes, which
made it difficult to determine her age. Her flowing silver-trimmed blue robes
were branded across the skirt with Celestra’s symbol: a rose intertwining a
silhouette of a Dragon’s head. Over the robes, she wore a chainmail top and a
tabard that was marked with the same symbol. A short, steel-flanged mace was
secured at her side.

The woman’s nervous expression
slowly softened to one of amusement as she acknowledged Kaijin’s inadvertent
gawking. “Forgive me. I was not expecting to find anyone out here.”

Nester’s eyes widened, and his
jaw dropped. “Neither were we....”

She studied Aidan for a
moment. Frowning, she reached out and touched his face. “Your eyes are badly
injured, sir. Please, allow me.”

Aidan opened his mouth and
froze as soon as the woman laid her hands upon his cheeks.

Kaijin gasped. “What—what are
you doing to him? Stop that, now!”

“Wait!” Nester tugged at
Kaijin’s sleeve. “I think she’s a warder, aye? She wears Celestra’s symbol,
after all.”

“Yes, but ...” Kaijin bit his
bottom lip, reluctantly restraining himself from stopping her.

Brushing her thumbs over
Aidan’s eyes, she lowered her head. “
Goddess of Exodus, may his afflictions
be mended and his sight returned to once again view the beautiful world you
have created.

Her voice was like an angel’s.

Aidan’s muscles relaxed, and
his eyelids fluttered, his blank stare gone. He whipped his head around and
gasped.
“Wha—?
Aidan can see! Aidan can see again!”

The woman withdrew her hands from
his face and stood back, smiling. “Praise
be
to the
goddess.”

“Amazing,” Kaijin said as he
exhaled.

“How did you get injured,
sir?” the woman asked Aidan. “Did something attack you?”

“Terrible, it was!” Nester
broke in. “We got attacked by trolls, we did! One of them tried to eat Aidan’s
face!”

Her eyebrow arched at the
brownie.
“Truly?
Well, I must say, your companion,
here, is certainly as big as a troll—or two.”

Nester laughed. “Aidan’s the
size of a troll with the mind the size of a li’l child’s!”

She regarded everyone in turn.
“So you are all in acquaintance with each other, I gather?”

“Certainly!”
Nester nodded, beaming. “We’re as close-knit as those
comfy li’l blankets my mum used to make!”

She chuckled and then offered
a humble bow of her head. “Well, then. Pleased to meet you all. My name is
Zarya. I am a traveling priestess of our great and mighty goddess, Celestra.”

Kaijin couldn’t help but smile
at her.
What a beautiful name.
“My name is Kaijin.” He gestured to his
other companions. “This is Nester, and that is Aidan.”

Zarya’s gaze focused on
Kaijin. “Goodness, Kaijin. Your ears ...”

“I—” Kaijin blinked in
surprise, not expecting her comment. “Yes, well ... ah ... I was robbed
yesterday.”

The priestess frowned. “That’s
unfortunate. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right. I’m still
alive, aren’t I?” He chuckled.

Zarya approached him slowly
and extended her hands. “Please, allow me.”

“W—
wait
.
I—” Kaijin froze, unsure what to do. He looked to Nester frantically.

The brownie returned a wide,
mischievous grin and a thumbs-up gesture.

Kaijin swallowed once and
turned back to Zarya. “It’s ... not going to hurt, I hope.”

She laughed.
“Not at all.
Just be still.” She placed her hands over his
ears and began chanting softly.

Her soothing voice almost
lulled Kaijin to sleep. Her touch was unbelievably soft and warm, and he
couldn’t stop smiling. She emanated a sense of peace and assurance. He studied
her face. He couldn’t spot a single flaw about her. Such perfection seemed
unnatural, almost jarring to him, but he couldn’t doubt the reality of what he
saw before him.

When she finished, she
released him. “It is done.”

Kaijin ran his hands along his
ears, shocked. The pain was gone. The skin was mended like new, with nary
a scratch
nor blemish to be felt. “Amazing,” he whispered,
looking at her. “Thank you.”

Zarya nodded politely. “It was
my pleasure, Kaijin.”

Aidan rubbed his eyes again.
“Aidan is also eternally grateful for what you have done.”

Zarya smiled at the giant. “It
wasn’t me, Aidan. It was the power of our wonderful goddess.”

The talk of the gods made
Kaijin cringe. There were too many questions unanswered—too many memories he
would have preferred forgotten. He decided to shift the subject of the
conversation. “What brings you out here, Zarya?”

Kaijin’s distraction seemed
unnoticed by the priestess, who regarded him thoughtfully. “I happened upon
this place by accident during my travels southward to Ostwyn. These ruins
seemed intriguing, so I decided to have a look.” She approached one of the
stone structures and slid her hand along its surface. “Judging by the markings
on some of them, they appear to be of druidic origin. I thought it might be
interesting to search for some clues about the druidic deities and perhaps
learn more about them.”

Kaijin approached another
ruin. The porous surface felt rough as he brushed his hand over the grooves of
etched runes and glyphs.

Nester rubbed his hands
together. “Well, now that you’re ’ere, you can ’elp us look for things, aye?”

Zarya lifted an eyebrow. “Look
for what?”

What else but things to
fill his pockets with?
Kaijin rolled
his eyes and whispered, “He wants to look for treasure.”

Zarya curled her lip with
utter disgust.

Nester crossed his arms.
“’Ey, now!
Don’t go chewin’ gums with every soddin’ person
about what we’re doing!”

“It’s the truth, Nester, and
you know it.” Kaijin glowered at him.
And I’m only joining you on this
trifling journey in order to pay off a debt.

Zarya put her hands on her hips.
“This place is not to be desecrated. What if it’s a druidic graveyard? The dead
should be left in peace.”

Aidan glanced at Zarya. “Aidan
agrees.”

“It’s no graveyard, I tell
you!” Nester piped up, flailing his arms about. “If it was, we’d be seeing ghosties
and all th’ li’l things that go bump in th’ night, aye?” He looked up at Zarya.
“No need to get your robes all foddled, beautiful. These are just a buncha old
ruins left behind by
th
’ foresty blokes.” He scanned
the ground and picked up a piece of stone. “See?”

“Let’s just forget about it,
Nester. We won’t find anything out—” Kaijin paused, spying a bright light flash
from the corner of his eye. He turned and saw a small object beneath one of the
fallen, crumbling columns.

“What is it, mate?” Nester asked
excitedly.

Kaijin approached the object
and knelt down. He brushed aside strangely warm stray dirt and debris. His eyes
widened at the deep orange hue of the sphere, its surface smooth.
So beautiful.

Nester peered over Kaijin’s
shoulder. Aidan and Zarya joined them.

Nester gasped. “Wow! Will you
look at
that!

Kaijin held his hand over the
object, startled by the intense heat that radiated from it. The heat was
soothing—very similar to
his own
necklace. He touched
the glass surface and left his hand there for a few moments, until he heard a
soft sizzling sound and felt small tingling sensations flow through his hand
and up his arm. Kaijin took the object. He cradled the sphere in both hands and
examined it closely.

“It’s even more amazin’ up
close!” Nester exclaimed.

“It looks like a glass orb,”
Zarya said. “Perhaps it’s a druidic artifact of sorts?”

The swirling orange and yellow
within the center of the orb fascinated Kaijin. They transitioned into
variations of fiery hues. “I sense magic,” he said absently.
“Actual
arcane power.”
Closing his eyes, he felt such great, unspeakable power
in his hand. He clenched his fingers around the orb. The voices of his
companions sounded distant, but clear.

“Woah!
You’re glowin’, mate!” Nester exclaimed.

Kaijin opened his eyes. The
air around him wavered as if from a furnace. A dim light encompassed him.

Zarya gawked.
“Amazing, Kaijin.
Are you, perhaps, a druid?”

Kaijin slowly shook his head,
not taking his gaze off the orb.

“Quite a find, ain’t it?”
Nester asked. “Think of ’ow much we could get for that!”

There was a moment of silence,
and then Zarya said, “You should put it back, Kaijin.”

Kaijin remained fixated on the
orb and didn’t respond.

“Nay!”
Nester exclaimed. “We found it fair an’ square, we
did!”

“You are stealing!” Zarya
retorted.

“Who knows ’ow long that
thing’s been sittin’ there, all clotted with dirt, like? It’s rightfully ours
for th’ takin’, it is!”

A low, somewhat animalistic
growl came from Aidan. “Is that
trinket
what you have been looking for,
Nester?”

After a brief pause, Nester
piped, “Ah ... aye ... aye, that’s right. That’s th’
exact
thing I’ve
been lookin’ for, now that you mention it. Uncle Nickle would be all grateful
to ’ave such a nice li’l trinket like that, ’e would! Let me ’ave it, Kaijin.
I’ll tuck it someplace safe.”

BOOK: Enflamed (Book 2)
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