Primal Arcana

Chapter 1 by Deschain5585 Deschain5585

Flames tore across the village, consuming dwellings and people alike as they raced from one place to the next, fuelled by strong winds and the old oak timbers most of the houses we made of. The blaze caused joists to crack and pop as the flame licked along their lengths, the heat causing iron studs to pop from their setting like projectiles, adding themselves to the carnage unfolding all around.

Scrambling out of his bed in a weary eyed daze, Jontin hurriedly made his way out of his room in his nightclothes. Smoke was steadily filling the air as he stumbled his way down the hallway to his daughters room in a panic. He heard the crack of a window shatter. The intense heat in the air forcing its way out through the space where the glass had been caused him to recoil as it hit him. The hair on his skin singed and cracked, but still he pressed on. Each step more laborious than the last, but still he continued. He had to reach her.

Her bedroom was at the end of the hallway opposite from where he slept, and he inched his way painfully towards it. Smoke poured out from beneath the bedroom door, and he prayed he wasn't too late. Having no cloth save what he wore around his legs to wrap around the metal of the door handle to open it, he had to grip it bare handed. His palm blistered as the flesh hit the brass fitting and burned as he opened the door. Gritting his teeth in pain as he felt the stuck and melted skin peel away as he pulled his hand from it, he unlocked the door.

Cautiously edging his way inside, he was surprised to find the floor around the bed was unscortched for a good few feet around, the wooden floor and hand carved bedframe looking as they always had. Asleep on it was his daughter, fretting fitfully in her sleep. As he strode over to her slowly, each step became harder as the heat sapped the strength from his legs. The moment his foot crossed into the unburnt area, the heat in the air died down to normal. The air was clean and free of smoke, clear enough to breath comfortably, and he sucked it in greedily. Calling her name to try and wake her, he reached down and gingerly tried to scoop his daughter up into his arms. The fresh burns running their length caused him to cry out in pain, and he dropped her back into the bed still asleep. He tried in vain to shake her gently awake, but he couldn't rouse her from her slumber. He tried again, more forcefully this time, but still he couldn't get her to stir. His knees went out from beneath him, and he sank to the floor. Latin his head on her lap, he began to sob gently. The tears fell from his eyes, cleaning small patches of soot from his cheeks as they rolled down his face.

Flames had begun to lick at the edges of the doorframe by now. He watched them through stinging eyes as they raced threateningly closer to where he knelt, and knew there was nothing he could do to stop their approach. He couldn't even carry her out of the room, couldn't even have saved himself at this point if he had been selfish enough to try and dash through the house to the door outside. Jontin wouldn't have left her anyway, she was his only child, and his reason for facing life each new day. He would always be with her.

The blaze made its way past the threshold of the doorway and into the room proper. Snaking along the floor, up walls and back along the ceiling until it came back on itself as it began to destroy the room, cutting off all exits.

He could escape the heat, but couldn't escape the deadly smoke permeating everywhere. His head swam as the air in the room fuelled the flames, and he could feel his eyes becoming starting to droop, the effort of trying to keep them open loosing out to the pain and fatigue felt. He drew a last shallow breath, and was overcome.

For over an hour the blaze had raged unchecked, if it wasn't brought under control soon, the entire village would be reduced to a smoking ruin. The crops in the fields were already aflame, the livestock that had been left to graze were gone too. The air smelled like a sickening mixture of hog roast, charnel and death.

Between the thickness of the dark smoke rising up into the sky and the last of the sun's rays beginning to fade away over the horizon, the only light left to see by came from the fire, and that was bright enough to sting the eyes of anyone foolish enough to look at it for more than a few moments.

Ash fell down from above, raining down in smoking lumps. Amidst the cries of people shouting for help, and the faint screams of those that were past saving, the rest of the villagers had tied damp cloths over their mouths in an effort to keep the smoke from their lungs. It was too late for most of them, the wracking coughs it caused sapped the strength from them, until finally they succame to the enviable.

Still a few battled valiantly on, desperately trying to save lives and homes alike. Some tore houses down, trying to create a break the fire couldn't cross. Others ferried water from nearby wells in buckets to throw at the blaze, but it spreading faster than they could fight it. One fool even ran back into his home to save something dear to him, but never made it back out again, as the building collapsed and swallowed him whole mere moments after he had gone inside.

Before the night was through, everyone in the village lay dead or dying, their spirits rising up into the afterlife aloft thick black smoke.

All save one.

Jontin's daughter lay peacefully asleep in her bed, her chest rising and falling in shallow ragged breaths, seemingly unaffected by smoke. His body remained propped against her now restful form in one last fatherly embrace. The house had burned to cinders around them, until only part of an outer wall stood standing defiantly whilst it's brethren collapsed around it.

Eyes shut and drifting in slumber, her ears never heard the gallop of horses approach the village. Their arrival went unnoticed, their slow, methodical search for survivors unappreciated. The riders didn't loot, they didn't care for the petty rewards of baubles or trinkets scavenged from corpses. They concerned themselves with the living, for flesh would bring more gold their way eventually.

Slowly picking their way through the carnage, they stopped only occasionally to turn a corpse over with the toe of their boot, or bend briefly to check for a pulse with two fingers to a neck, until eventually they reached her.

The force of an extra body on the already fragile floorboards of her room caused it to crack and splinter under the added weight, the sound finally stirring her awake. With barely a chance to stretch the tiredness from her limbs, a gloved hand slipped over her mouth and held it shut. Who they thought would hear her was unsure, but they muffled her cry of terror anyway as a precaution.

She couldn't draw breath through the hand, couldn't see who restrained her. Unconsciousness began to claim her once again, until she slipped back into its dark embrace.

What's next?

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