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The Rider of the Flame

by Stephanie Dennis-Fernandez about a month ago in Young Adult · updated about a month ago
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by Stephanie Dennis-Fernandez

"The Dragonborn shall ride the Flame through darkness to glory." (Armaros 3:14)

There weren't always dragons in the Valley. No, the Valley Anya stood in now was not the one she used to play in with her best friend all those years ago.

She remembered how the air used to smell back then, the fresh pine and snow scents swirling in through her nostrils as her and Noon would run down the hill into the Valley, arms out wide like they could almost flap them to fly away. Their laughter would echo off the cliff faces, bouncing back and forward as they ran, weaving around one another. The Valley was dangerous, her mother would tell her; something about landslides. Anya unashamedly never listened to her mother when it came to the Valley, always dragging Noon out for a daily run before the morning harvest would begin.

All of that was a distant memory now, the Valley around her making her memories seem like something out of a storybook instead of real life. Looking back, she wished nothing more than to be able to fly. To be able to go back and rescue her mother, to rescue Noon, to take them some place the Dragaans would never find them.

But as Anya had learnt a long time ago, to hope was to dream, to dream was to remember, and to remember was to relive the horror of her past.

The chains on her feet rattled as she took another lumbering step forward, the prisoners attached to her doing the same. The Valley looked like a shell now, the inside of a ravaged, burnt-out carcass that had been left rotting in the unforgiving sun. The once lush canopy of trees now lay to waste, their gnarled branches and trunks looking like monsters climbing out from the ground. The air was stifling, hot and sticky and tasted of sulphur.

She supposed some of that had to do with the giant dragon in front of her.

The Dragaan invaders were known for their fierce, merciless dragons, calling them down from the Mountain in the Sky whenever they needed them. It’s how they took over and destroyed our towns and homes many moons ago – the power of a dragon had never been seen until then.

The sound of her home cracking and breaking from the inferno that had rocked her little town that day rang in her mind almost every waking moment. There were three things she would never be able to unsee: her childhood home burning to the ground, her mother helplessly fighting to protect her until she was struck through the middle with a sword, and Noon being slaughtered by the Dragaan Warlord himself.

Anya’s world changed in a matter of minutes. She didn’t fight the Dragaan when they took her back to their monstrous camp in the Valley.

Why bother fighting when there truly was nothing left to live for?

As Anya stood in the shackled line of unwashed Kaze people – her people – she kept calm as the dragon crept forward on its curved legs, its copper scales reflecting the red and black of the barren ground around her. Its eyes, green like moss-covered stone, slowly began to eye the row of prisoners with an unsatiated hunger. Anya kept her gaze on its left eyeball, willing it to dare to look at her. She knew now that dragons were not dumb, stupid creatures. They were smart and cunning, and an animal that had those qualities was never to be underestimated.

“You have been chosen as a sacrifice to the Eight Lords of Flame,” a Dragaan brute spoke in his rough, garbled voice, the language of her people out of his scruffy mouth making her want to empty her stomach. “What an honour this is. An honour indeed.”

“An honour we did not choose,” Anya spoke, her voice unwavering in its pointedness. “And continue to refuse.”

The Dragaan brute glared at her, his black, beady eyes sweeping over her body as if he was sizing her up as a meal. She didn’t falter – her spine rigid and straight. She would in no way show weakness in her final moments.

She noticed then the Dragaan Prince standing near the dragon, his night-black wavy hair spilling out from under his crown, the gold warped to look like flames licking up the side of his head. His eyes locked onto hers, and she did not look away. There was no emotion behind his, no shadow of remorse. Nothing. Empty. A bottomless void. He only ever came out for the executions – sadistic, Anya always thought.

“You do not have to understand the honour, but know that it is one, and it shall be bestowed upon you,” he said, his tone clipped. “For us to finally find the Dragonborn who will bring peace unto our lands.”

The fucking Dragonborn. The two-legged, dragon-blooded rider of the Flame. Whatever the fuck that meant. All Anya knew was that these zealots were looking for something they would never find. And in trying to find this supposed gift from the Eight Lords of Flame hidden amongst normal, average people, they were sacrificing hundreds to thousands every week. Which, apparently, was also what the Eight Murderers of Flame wanted – blood on their hands to feed their spirit power.

The Dragonborn could supposedly withstand the Flame – the dragon’s lifeblood and ultimate power. The thing was, Anya thought as she lined up to her death, was they were all made up of flesh and blood and bones. That didn’t bode very well against a blinding heat so hot, it could melt the very ground she stood on.

Surely they’d want to burn a few of themselves just to see if one of them were the Dragonborn she thought to herself, a smile cracking on her dry skin. Clearly this wasn’t about finding some mystical being. It was about exterminating her people. Purging her world of what was left.

“If you burn, know that your soul will be taken to the Chamber of Flame, an honour we all will experience one day. You are all lucky enough to–”

“Why wait? Why don’t you join us?” Anya interrupted. Her sass truly knew no bounds.

A Dragaan grunt kicked her behind the knees, making her fall onto the rough dirt below. She laughed a maniacal laugh, shooting pain travelling from her knees up to her thighs. The Dragaan Prince looked down his slender nose at her, his terrifyingly huge frame almost blotting out the dizzying-hot sun.

In the afterlife, she would come back as a dragon, she had decided. She would gain his trust, allow him to ride her, and then slaughter him. Then she would decimate this Valley, making sure no one, not even a dragon, could step foot in this place again.

She rose to her feet gingerly, her knees stinging, a small bit of rock now lodged in her skin. The Dragaan brute looked towards the dragon, rose his arms up in the air and cried, “Let the ceremony commence!”

Of course they’d choose the word ‘ceremony’. Murder, or killing-people-in-the-worst-possible-way, didn’t really have the best ring to it.

Anya was fifth in line, the four people in front of her weeping and screaming. Anya would not let herself break. No, that had already happened to her a long, long time ago.

They unshackled the first prisoner, leading him forward to a small, charred dragonstone pedestal. He fought them, soldiers coming from every direction to get him to stand on the stone. No one was to be bound while on the stone, because apparently that messed with the whole ‘sacrifice’ thing. No, the Chamber of Flame did not open to those who did not go willingly. Because look at all these people – all so willing to die!

The man stood, tears streaming down his face as the dragon stomped forward, its grotesque yellowed fangs now bared. Its long snout opened and a whirring sound swam through the air, becoming louder and louder until a ball so bright formed in the dragon’s mouth. Within a split second, a blast of fire was shot out, the man on the pedestal entirely vaporised.

At least it would be quick. Painless.

Anya’s feet were taken out from under her, all the prisoners trying to run. With their chains connected, no one got very far. The soldiers all bustled people back into the line, the remains of the man once standing on the stone non-existent.

The Dragaan Prince eyed each prisoner as they rose onto the stone, his stare so intense it was like he would cast a fire onto them himself. She thought about the type of dragon she would come back as and imagined all the fun she would have with these people when she did. With him especially, the almighty chosen one, relentlessly looking for his precious Dragonborn to serve alongside him.

She would finally be able to fly amongst the clouds, soaring through the sky like she had always pictured as a little girl. Maybe Noon would come back soon as a dragon, too. And her mother. The three of them could finally be free.

Rapidly blinking, she came back to reality. She was somehow next, the woman in front of her now trying to run from the pedestal. Anya understood why people tried to run, it was the most logical thing to do considering the circumstances. As soon as the binds came off, something swept over people. Fight or flight mode, and people normally always chose flight.

Anya would choose neither. She would choose stillness.

The woman was incinerated, the group behind her screaming and pleading with the soldiers to let them go. Anya tried to block it all out. People suffering had become the new cacophony instead of nature, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear.

“Next.”

A Dragaan soldier unshackled her ankles, the air on her constantly bound skin stinging with its new freedom. But not for long.

She didn’t wait for a soldier to force her. No, she went up willingly.

She planted her feet on the pedestal, the dragonstone surprisingly cold even though flames had just blanketed it only moments ago. She took a quick look around her at the Valley and remembered it for what it was – a beautiful piece of her home that was full of greens, blues, and birds.

Her eyes lowered as she looked straight at the Dragaan Prince, her gaze like a knife trying to cut through his body.

“No matter what lifetime I come back in,” Anya said coldly, staring directly into his soulless eyes. “I will always find you. And I will always destroy you.”

His jaw twitched slightly but he said nothing, his eyes alight with something she couldn’t quite place.

She faced the dragon then, its giant mouth slowly opening to reveal the last thing she would ever see.

The whirring sound started, filling her ears with an incessant ringing, her body almost feeling electrified by the very power of it.

She would not close her eyes. She wouldn’t even dare to blink.

No, Anya would look death in the eyes and wrestle with it on her way to the afterlife.

The heat was immense, her skin feeling like it was already melting off her bones. The ball of flame appeared, and just like that, the world was alight with an orange and red hue, the most vibrant colour she had ever experienced in her life.

So, this was what it was like to die.

She felt nothing.

Only…

She took a breath, the colour still swallowing her, the fire engulfing her whole.

She did not burn.

Young Adult

About the author

Stephanie Dennis-Fernandez

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  4. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (13)

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  • Alecia T Blake20 days ago

    An incredible story. Loved it from the start and read it in one hit. Could instantly feel those anger vibes rolling off Anya. So good! I really want more!!! Would make an amazing novel.

  • Nellie F26 days ago

    Wow, this sucked me in straight away. The characters feel so real and I wanted to stay immersed in this amazing world. Such an incredible story.

  • Rachael Robertsonabout a month ago

    Oh man, I really didn't think it would end like that!! What an incredible glimpse into this world!

  • Maree Heardabout a month ago

    I’m hooked! I want to know more! What an excellent piece of writing.

  • Luke Fabout a month ago

    This is amazing I couldn't stop reading it, absolutely loved it.

  • Chloe Annabout a month ago

    Love this Steph! So well written ! Well done x

  • Chantal McCabeabout a month ago

    I love this ! The kind of world you could get lost in. I can really see what the author is expressing and wished there was more to read!

  • Isabelabout a month ago

    I felt instantly sucked in to this story. Anya is already such a compelling character. I feel so connected to her experience and I am so hooked on this story - I want more!

  • Nadine Matti about a month ago

    This was incredible!!! So well written. Really wished there was more!

  • Brett Habout a month ago

    This was so easy to get lost in the story! When can we get the next Chapter!

  • Helen Louiseabout a month ago

    Omg, I love this story. I did not want it to end. Please write a full novel. I need more!!!!

  • Richard Labout a month ago

    When is the next release?! We need more!

  • Ty Dabout a month ago

    This is amazing! I didn’t want it to stop! 😱

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