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Fiction Thriller

The horn sounded its’ loud warning tune, echoing far beyond the wooden walls of New Haven. Everyone who heard it stood frozen and listened, fear gripping them tighter with each subsequent blast. Birds picked up from their roosts and took to the skies, squawking frantically. 

Five times the horn sounded.

The dreaded fifth was seldom heard in New Haven. Men, women, and children all stopped what they were doing and ran. Shops were abandoned, work fires were put out, and those in fields took their tools with them as they beelined to the town center—a place named Dragon's Plaza.

Footsteps thudded on cobbled streets. People shouted. Children cried. Old people struggled to keep up. Only one was unsure where to go: a traveler who had arrived the day prior. He stood outside the inn, curiously watching the crowds run by. 

“What’s going on?” he shouted.

“Get to the Plaza! Hurry!” a passing woman said. 

“What the hell for?” 

But the woman was gone, lost in the busy crowd. The traveler stood still until he was pushed from behind. 

“You be deaf, Mr. Williams? Did you not hear the dreaded fifth?” the innkeeper shouted, “To the Plaza! Hurry! Last time this happen, we were un’er siege for a week. Here, come with me, I’ll take you there.”

Williams ran with the innkeeper down the main road to Dragon’s Plaza. It was a large open area, with flat black stone tiles shaped like scales and arranged in a circular pattern around a raised marble platform. A single man stood there—a man dressed in white. The town gathered before him, and he looked down on them with eyes as calm and blue as sea glass. His hair was peppered a wise gray, and though his confident posture made him look tall, he was shorter than the average man.

 “My humble followers,” he said, "Look to the sky and see the danger we face.” 

The whole crowd looked up and many eyes darted between the large clouds that drifted lazily from Northeast to Southwest. No one said a word. 

“The Great Dragon has spoken to me,” the man in white said, “He is not pleased with us.”

Frantic murmurs rippled through the crowd. Terrified looks caught like wildfire. 

“What have we done?” a woman cried. “Have we not been faithful? Everything the Burning One asks for, we give. Gold, wheat, and songs we offer up. How is He not pleased?”

The man in white smiled. “Your faith, Isabelle, is not in question. But there are those among us who harbor doubt in their hearts. The Great Dragon knows this and is not pleased. Look and you will see. The sky darkens as He prepares to swallow the sun. Even now the day chills with His displeasure and He threatens to send Night Winds down upon us.” 

“He speaks the truth!” a man shouted, pointing at the sky. “A great shadow be movin’ over the sun!”

“I sees it too!” a woman shrieked. 

The crowd shifted uneasily. The man in white, stood silent and still with a composed look on his face. There were over a hundred people gathered before him. All stared at him with terrified, wanting looks. He drank the feeling in as he closed his eyes and tilted his head toward the sun. 

“There is nothing to be afraid of,” a voice shouted. 

The man in white opened his eyes and stared contemptuously down at the crowd. 

“Who said that?” he shouted.

Everyone in the crowd pointed to a man in the back. 

“It be Mr. Williams, Scion, the traveler who arrived yesterday makin’ his way East,” the innkeeper said, “I hear him says it.”

The Scion looked at Williams, frowned, and said, “You do not know our customs, outsider, nor do you understand the danger we all face. The Burning One sees all and has dominion over all things. He speaks through me, and me alone, as I have dedicated my life to learning the signs—”

“And I have studied at the Sacred Library and spoken with the Mystics who know the stars—”

“As have I.”

“Then you know that this phenomenon is nothing more than—”

“SILENCE!” the Scion shouted and pointed at Williams. “Bring him to me.”

Immediately, Williams was seized by both arms. He struggled but then allowed himself to be escorted to the platform when two other men approached him with rusty pitchforks. 

“He blasphemes the Great Dragon,” a man shouted, “Scion, we must exile him before the sun is swallowed.”

“Save us, Scion,” a child cried, “Tell the Burning One that he is not one of us. Don’t let the Night Winds come.” 

“This man speaks lies,” Williams said, “there is nothing to be afraid of.”

“Do not listen to the outsider. His heresy angers the Great Dragon! Listen to me. Look! Look how the sky darkens with His rage. He draws near. Even now, the beating of His wings changes the winds.”

The Scion pointed to the clouds that now drifted from Southeast to Northwest. The air was noticeably colder. Williams tried again to free himself but stopped when he felt the four points of a pitchfork press on his back. 

“Everyone, listen to me,” Williams shouted, “This man lies to you. Do not be afraid. I repeat, there is nothing to be afraid of. What you see is nothing more than an eclipse. It happens, from time to time, when the moon moves in front of the sun. It will pass soon. The Mystics have told me so.”

The Scion looked up toward the sun and screamed. 

“My eyes burn with His rage! Quickly everyone. Sing praise to Him. Sing to the Great Dragon. Drown out this man’s voice with ours. Come now, On the Winds of Glory: 

“He flies o’er the sky, so glor-ee-ous 

We praise his bless-ed good stow-ree

Fire our hearts, make us vic-tor-ious

With wings that call the Winds of Glo-ree”

The crowd continued with the next verse; voices full of pleading joy. Williams stared at them, eyes wide, before looking back at the man in white, who smirked down at him.

“This phenomenon,” Williams said, “will pass regardless of their singing. You know this to be true.”

“Mr. Williams, I have led this congregation for almost two decades and our devotion to the Great Dragon has kept us safe and secure. This phenomenon will pass because of our singing.” 

Williams looked back and watched as everyone sang praise to the heavens, faces red and necks tense. He turned back to the Scion with renewed anger. 

“I have traveled across the land and have met too many people like you who want nothing more in life than to wield power,” he said, “You have taken the knowledge of the Mystics and used it to rule the minds of those who lack it.”

“And I have met so many like you,” the Scion said, “So arrogantly sure of themselves that they shut their minds off to the true mysteries of the world.”

“You and I studied at the same place. . .”

A scream cut between them as the sky darkened and day became night. The temperature dropped again, the winds settled, and the air thickened with a humid chill. The clouds above deflated, and panic ripped through the crowd. 

“Our singing does not please the Great Dragon!” a woman shrieked, “He has swallowed the sun!”

“It’s that blasphemous traveler!” a man shouted, “He has damned us all! The Night Winds will come and steal our souls, just like the Scion said.” 

The crowd roiled in agreement. 

“He shew’d up yesterday,” the innkeeper shouted, “and brought bad omens with him.”

“Never fear!” the Scion said, “For I will speak with the Great Dragon and ask for forgiveness. I risk my life by doing so but I do it for all of you, my loyal followers. Everyone kneel and pray for me.”

“Forget forgiveness,” Isabelle shouted, “we need appeasement.”

“Silence, woman. I am the Burning One’s prophet.”

Isabelle stepped out of the crowd.

“The Great Dragon condemns us all,” she said, “We must do something, or the Night Winds will come.”

Before the Scion could respond, Isabelle pointed at Williams and shrieked, “His blood is what the Great Dragon wants!” with such authority that the crowd surged into action.

Williams froze, eyes wide with horror, and screamed as heavy hands grabbed each of his limbs and lifted him up above the crowd.

“No, no. Stop! Everyone stop!” the Scion yelled, “This is not what the Great Dragon wants. He does not want human sacrifice. He detests it.”

But the crowd did not listen. It buzzed and churned. 

“Bring him to me!” Isabelle shouted and stepped onto the platform, smirking slyly at the Scion. 

“You are done, old man,” she said.

“O’ you wretched woman. Everyone! Everyone stop,” he cried, “Listen to me. This woman is lying to you. The Great Dragon wants you all to sing! Human sacrifice will get you nothing.”

But the crowd shrieked and howled and did not hear him. Isabelle looked at Williams as he squirmed against the dozens of clawing hands that pinned him down on the platform. 

“Hold him there,” she said, “Someone bring me a blade. I will perform the rites.”

“You speak falsely,” the Scion said, “there are no rites for this barbarity.”

“This is how I know you are a false prophet, Scion, for the Great Dragon has taught me the rites through my dreams. He abandoned you and has chosen me.”

The Scion approached Isabelle, pulled her close, and whispered, “You lie. There is no dragon. This is an innocent man you are about to kill.”

Isabelle grinned. 

“Save us!” a child shouted. 

“Please hurry!” a man cried.

Isabelle pulled away and the Scion watched, with frozen horror, as a blade was brought to her. She took it in both hands and began to chant in some old language. Williams stared at the blade’s blunted tip as it raised over his chest. When it reached its peak, he looked over at the Scion—fear caught in his eye—and said, “My blood is on your hands.”

And it just so happened that when the blade plunged into his heart, night turned back into day. The world warmed with the sun’s glow and the winds whipped back to their original direction. The crowd cheered and sang praise to both the Great Dragon and Isabelle. 

“Quick,” Isabelle shouted, “the blood must not spoil. Someone bring me a silver bowl.” 

Someone ran off to fetch what she asked for, and while the crowd sang, the Scion slowly backed away. Once he had enough distance, he ran.   

April 11, 2024 21:17

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1 comment

Luca King Greek
13:42 Apr 18, 2024

Very good, quick paced, clever ending. I thought it was going to be a bit corny, but it developed into something bigger than the genre in which it originated. Great job.


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