The Girl With Red Hair
By Michael J. Sanford
The circumstances are odd, that much is true. But she's just a child. She needs protecting. She needs guardians.
Before long, strange magic manifests from the small girl, equally awe inspiring as it is terrifying.
Does she control the fire and light?
Or do they control her?
Shadows are rising from Alfuria, the very world beneath their feet. Sometimes they call, wishing for an unending embrace.
Dragons have risen as well, from myth and legend, stalking land and sky. The roar of such beasts shakes even the most resolute warrior.
Shadows, gods, dragons, and the girl with red hair. What is real and what is merely illusion?
Adelaide is undoubtedly important.
That may be the only certainty.
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He shouldered into the room, letting the door crash into the wall, not bothering to stop. His senses were sharp, even in the dim light. A flash of lightning beyond the balcony revealed everything in an instant and seared it into the backs of his eyes. Adelaide sat huddled against the headboard of the large four-poster bed, blankets pulled to her chin, her mouth reverberating with an infinite shriek of terror.
Alexander turned to the shape coming in from the balcony. In the gloom, it was hard to distinguish; it seemed to be made of blackness. Burning yellow eyes stared back like small embers, giving away its location. It crept on all fours, but seemed capable of walking upright; it had the look of a shrunken and stooped humanoid. Its flesh was gray and pocked. Something akin to smoke drifted off it, as if it were a smoldering coal.
Sachihiro and Jaydan stumbled into the room as the creature broke for the bed. Alexander moved to intercept it, but Sachihiro was quicker. Alexander stumbled to his knees as the burly man shot past in a streak of bare skin and lute. The creature screeched as it leapt for Adelaide. Sachihiro did the same, connecting with it in midair. They went to the floor in a twisted heap of man and shadow.
Alexander found his footing and scrambled to help Sachihiro. He had managed to turn over and straddled the squirming creature. Long claws of black mist raked at the musician’s barreled chest. Sachihiro yelled with primal rage and set to smashing the thing’s head into the floor. Alexander slid towards the creature’s head and grabbed its arms. It felt solid enough, but the mottled skin was colder than anything he had felt before. He wrenched, stretching the arms until a sharp pop burst from its shoulder joints. Another pair of heavy punches from Sachihiro silenced the thing and it went limp.
“More!” Jaydan yelled, and the room lit up with magic fire brighter than the lightning.
Alexander spun upright to see Jaydan hurling thin spouts of flame at two more creatures that had entered the room. A third crawled onto the balcony and joined in a collective charge. They rushed at Alexander and Sachihiro. Adelaide continued to shriek behind them, her terror rising above the thunder that shook the room without reprieve.
Alexander lunged forward to meet the foe. One was knocked off course by a burst of magic that impacted its side. The other two jumped at that instant, hitting Alexander solidly in the chest. Neither equaled even half his size, but the collective force took him off his feet. He landed on the fallen creature with a sickening crunch. Sachihiro tore one of the creatures free and tossed it across the room.
Alexander’s field of vision vanished as a mouthful of wicked teeth opened before him. He twisted and brought his forearm into the creature’s throat. It snapped its jaw shut, just missing the tip of Alexander’s nose. Its breath frosted the warm air and its eyes flared.
He lives in upstate New York with his loving wife and two cats. If he's not writing, he's likely reading, weightlifting, or forcing his players into difficult situations from behind his Dungeon Master's screen. He is a storyteller first and a writer second.