Monday, January 01, 1990

Green Flame: A Tale of Alyria

Lightning tore open the sky. Another storm was rolling in from the Sea of Mist. The high priest was pleased. Storms meant destruction and chaos for the world Above. Storms would draw up one of the Masters from their dwelling in the world Below to come sanctify this gathering.

Another flash of lightning illuminated the rite of ordination proceeding behind the priest. The two initiates were enthusiastically violating the sacrifice while the other worshipers looked on. Earlier the priest had been concerned that the woman’s screams might attract unwanted attention, but now the wind and thunder drowned out her weakening cries. It was time, he knew, time for the invocation.

He raised his hands to the sky. “Oh Great Ones! Hear our plea! Accept this offering of pain and honor us with Your presence!” Lightning danced and rippled across the sky and was answered by flashes deep within the Sea of Mist. Behind him he heard the initiates beginning the excruciation. Calling more loudly over the rising wind, he repeated his invocation. The sky and Sea were whipped to a fury now. The lightning was almost continuous now as the storm burst over them. There! Was that a shape in the mist? Screaming at the top of his lungs, he cried out the paean of welcome. Behind him, he heard a sickening breaking sound as the last remnant of pain was wrung from the sacrifice.

With a mighty roar the dragon burst from the Sea. “My Master and my God,” the high priest whispered as he fell to his knees before the awesome sight. The dragon surveyed the scene with burning eyes. The high priest held his breath, wondering what the dragon was thinking. Suddenly fear squeezed his heart. Some of the Masters had been known to carry off high priests who did not sufficiently please them with their sacrifice. Was this one displeased? Sweat beaded on his forehead. Why didn’t the Master speak? The dragon’s burning eyes swept over him again. The high priest could feel the bile rising in his throat. He began to shake uncontrollably.

Finally the dragon spoke. “Arise,” it hissed. “Your sacrifice of pain has pleased me.” Relief washed over the high priest. Shakily he rose to his feet. “Now it is time to consecrate my new priests,” commanded the dragon. “Bring forth the initiates.”

The two initiates came forward. Both were blood-spattered from the excruciation that they had performed, and one still clutched a wicked-looking flail. They were shaking with fear and excitement and their eyes were wide as they beheld a Master for the first time. “Kneel before me!” commanded the dragon. Wordlessly they obeyed. “I am pleased with you as well,” the dragon hissed. “Receive the gift for which you have striven.” The dragon’s eyes began to glow a poisonous green. “Gaze deep within my eyes,” the dragon ordered. Trembling, the two initiates raised their eyes. Slowly a green nimbus grew around the two initiates. They began to twitch and moan with ecstasy as the power entered their bodies. The high priest began the litany of consecration, as the glow became ever brighter.

A choked cry escaped the lips of one of the initiates, breaking the high priest’s concentration. Smoke was beginning to rise from the initiate’s body. A look of exquisite horror passed over his face. “No!” he gasped. “NO!” The center of his chest was beginning to smolder. The initiate staggered to his feet. “No! Stop!” he screamed. The dragon looked on uncaringly as he screamed in pain again. Flames burst from his chest and ears. His eyes wept blood. “Somebody help me!” he screamed. The initiate staggered toward the high priest, keening wordlessly as his flesh began to burn away. Recoiling in shock and horror, the high priest pushed the flaming man away from him. A wordless cry escaped the dying man’s lips. “God! Save me!” he cried, not to the dragon before him, but to some half-forgotten deity of his youth. Then, with a final howl of soul-searing agony, he lurched over the precipice and fell into the Sea of Mist.

The dragon smiled coldly, showing its razor-sharp teeth. “He was...unworthy,” it hissed to the trembling high priest. “Be glad this other was not.” Slowly the second initiate rose to his feet. An unholy green fire burned behind his eyes. “Behold My servant, with whom I am well-pleased,” proclaimed the dragon in a voice like thunder. “Lo, the time is coming, when I shall fill the world with My spawn like this one, and the world shall burn as an eternal sacrifice to Our magnificence!” Beating its mighty wings, the dragon soared aloft and plunged into the Sea of Mist.

The high priest rushed through the final benediction. Several of the worshipers had already slipped away, their faith shaken by the horror they had witnessed. Still, most remained to rededicate themselves to the service of the Masters. At last, the final word was spoken. In twos and threes the remaining worshipers slipped away into the night. Two of them took the remains of what had once been a beautiful young woman and pitched them into the Sea. “A fitting resting place for our sacrifice,” thought the high priest. Then he reached deep into himself, down to where the emerald flame burned within his soul. He seized the power and dragged it forth...

The world twisted...


...folding around him...

...falling into a consuming green flame...

He stood in his bedchamber in the Citadel. A long day of work lay ahead of him, and yet he was energized. The fear he had felt in the presence of the Master ebbed away and all that remained was a fierce joy. The dragons’ flame burned within him, and there was much work still to be done. Quickly he changed into his uniform. Soon it would be 6:00 and it would not do to miss the changing of the guard.

As he stepped out into the hallway, the sleepy soldier standing outside snapped to attention. “Good morning, sir!” he barked. The high priest returned the salute silently and turned down the hallway. After all, the Captain of the Guard need not respond to a mere private. Besides he was busy. Yes, so very busy. His eyes flared green with the fire in his soul.

And somewhere in the depths of his mind, he could hear a dragon roar.


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