Images of a Black Flame
I dredged up this prompt from long ago and for some reason, it spoke to me now. I have written a chapter of what seems like a longer work. Do you like it? Do you want to read more? Let me know. If there’s no interest, I’ll let the story drop, never to be seen again.
Anrak woke with a gasp and sat straight up in her bed. She pulled her russet hair, come loose in her sleep, back from her face and flipped her braid to her back. Deep calming breaths, just breathe. She looked around her tiny room, the embers of the fire close to gone, and tried to reorient herself while her heart beat slowed. The dream had seemed so real.
In the morning, she rose from her pallet and began the day’s work. Breakfast for Master Eddan and herself was first before they began the task of taking down the dried herbs and putting them into jars and boxes.
Eddan came into the main room as Anrak scooped oatmeal into bowls. “I put dried cherries in it this morning.”
Eddan sat at the table and nodded. “I’m pleased.” He eyed her, his face, wrinkled with time, showed concern. “I heard you call out last night. The dream again?”
Anrak swallowed. “Yes.” She sighed. “I wish I knew what it means.”
“Just the image of a black flame? Was it on a table, an altar, in a building, the woods?”
The apprentice rubbed an eye. “There might have been a candle, or that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I don’t understand why it terrifies me.” She scooped oatmeal into her bowl and sat across the table from her master. “It’s as though the flame is alive, can see me.” She stirred the mush around the bowl. “Or that there’s someone near, in the same space with the flame.” Anrak shook her head. “It makes no sense.” She ate a spoonful of the oatmeal.
Eddan stroked his beard, gone white in the twelve years she’d been his apprentice. “I’ve been thinking about your flame. I’ve read through all of my books looking for a reference. It might be time to go to the Mage Council to collaborate.”
“Is that wise?”
Eddan snorted. “They’ll have to get over themselves. They know I was right, it just galls them that I saw the dragon coming before the rest of them did.” He scooped up a spoonful and ate it.
“Good thing you did. Otherwise the land would have been seared from one end to the other. The King was happy.”
“Yes, but I’m concerned that you keep seeing this image and are fearful of it. It could be a portent. That’s why I took you as an apprentice. Your dreams are strong and even as an untrained child, could foresee events. We’ll go today. After breakfast, pack us some travel food, prepare our bags. We’ll go to the council and get some help.”
After four days walk, Eddan and Anrak reached the castle where many of their brother and sister mages lived and studied. It was located in the capital city, making it easy for the King to summon them should he need counsel or assistance. They were ushered to the rooms of the head of the council.
“Gar’dyne!” Eddan strode across the carpets strewn across the stone floor like pools of color. “So good to see you.” The two men clasped each other’s arms and hugged in greeting.
“It’s been too long, Eddan.” The mage held his friend at arm’s length and studied his appearance. “You’ve gotten grayer.”
“And you’ve gotten thinner. Doesn’t your apprentice feed you?” Eddan laughed.
“He does, but I don’t always remember to eat what he brings me.” He looked past Eddan. “And this is Anrak?” Gar’dyne walked to her and gave her a gentle embrace. “You have grown into a fine young woman.” He studied her face. “But you have dark circles under your eyes. Are you well?”
She smiled at the kind old man. “I am well.” Anrak looked to her master.
Eddan spoke up. “She is dreaming. We want the council to help us.”
“Come, sit.” He led them to a table and chairs. “Tell me everything.”
After the tale, Gar’dyne called for tea, bread and cheese. “It seems to me, this black flame is a symbol, a warning perhaps.”
While they ate, Eddan said, “That’s my thought also. The library here is large, there may be some reference to a black flame and one or more of the council may have knowledge of this image.”
“We’ll meet after supper in the council chamber and tell the rest of the mages. He stood up. “I’ll have Yawo escort you to your chambers. Rest, have a quiet supper and meet us after.”
Eddan shook Gar’dyne’s hand. “Thank you. I feel this is a threat. We should be prepared.”
At the meeting of the mages, they hashed over Anrak’s dream. By the time they finished, she was exhausted.
“I don’t know,” Tankal, a middle-aged man whose main talent as a mage was creating flame, whined. “None of us seem to know what this image she dreams of is about.”
“Belsing,” Gar’dyne called out. “You’re the one with the best knowledge of the library yet you’ve said nothing.”
Anrak turned to look at Belsing. At least ninety, he looked as fragile as the ancient manuscripts he studied.
“There might be something, a prophesy, very old. Something about a war with black flames. I’d have to research it.” He scratched his liver-spotted bald head. “I would suggest a dream reader stay with Anrak tonight and view the dream with her.”
“Excellent idea, Belsing.” Gar’dyne turned to a woman that was near his age. “Releh, you’re the best dream follower we have. Would you help us tonight?”
Relah looked at Anrak. “If the young woman gives me permission, I’d be happy to help.”
Anrak nodded. “I would appreciate that service. Thank you.”
“Then it is done.” Gar’dyne clapped his hands. “We’ll reconvene in at mid-morning to discuss what has happened over the night.”
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