Flash Fiction Challenge: Born Again

Over on the incorrigible Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds, he posts a regular feature, the Flash Fiction Challenge. It’s a great way to ditch the anchors of continuity and plot, get out on the highway, and just open the engine wide. And, being Wendig, the prompts themselves are usually a lot of fun. I know that I spent way to much time this week just playing with the linked random character generator.

This week’s challenge: Who the Fuck is my D&D Character?


And from that, I penned this:

Born Again

Sliph heard the distant rumble, everyone in the small town of Arrow’s Shadow did. He turned his scaled head towards the mountains, their pointed peaks giving this place its name. He raised his arms, his black robes draping from them like wings. “Do you not hear, brothers and sisters? Dragotha stirs! Join me in worship now, before the bone dragon rises to reap the unfaithful!” 

He, unsuccessfully, tried to keep the hitch out of his voice. He could picture it so clearly, the flat-faced humans in front of him, reduced to nothing but ash, their spouses in the mines, buried by Dragotha’s return. He could save them all. If they would just listen. 
The Tower of Bones had prepared him, had prepared all of his Dragonborn brethren, for the final days, when he who had sacrificed his body and eternal soul for life never-ending, would return to harvest the green world that grew above his grave. 
But that knowledge was not meant for the lesser races. They were meant to be sacrificial lambs, their blood the baptismal flood that would cleanse the world. 
Sliph wished, with a passion so fierce it threatened to crush his heart, that the clerics of his order saw what he saw in these “lesser” beings. They loved, they created, they enjoyed life with such a bald carnality, it brought him to tears.
“Mr. Dragonman, why are you crying?” The voice had a lilting accent and came from the only one of his flock that remained. How long had he stood like this, lost in his own musings? It was Arrow’s Rest all over again. The girl was wood folk of some sort. She looked like a elven child, until you noticed her eyes and the wisdom that hid there. Her garb was simple, skins and rough fabric. But again, if you only looked at her clothes, you would miss the gleaming, ashen bow slung across her back, the arrows with fletching so black they looked like shards of captured midnight. 
Sliph suppressed a gasp. He must tread carefully.
“I cry because I have been given a gift, child.” His clawed feet dug at the wooden steps. 
“I’m no child.” The girl’s voice was instantly defiant, honed edges rising to the surface, a predator that lay under still waters. 
“I have no doubt of that.” He continued on, pretending he didn’t notice the change in tone. “All those that have not been born anew into the Order of Bones are my children. Like a father, I must guide them and save them from themselves.”
The girl looked past him to the empty town center. Merchants and buyers, wives and husbands, mistresses and cutpurses, all hustled to and fro, actively avoiding stepping into range of the stage. “Doing a pretty poor job of guiding ‘em, Mr. Dragonman.”
Sliph struggled to speak against the sadness that filled him. “I suppose I am. But they will see, in time. It matters not that they follow me now; as long as, when the time comes, they choose the proper path.” He extended a hand, golden scales catching the sun’s rays. “You may call me Sliph.” 
She eyed the offered hand like a snake, tentatively shaking it once. Quickly, she dropped her hand back to her side, unconsciously rubbing it against her tunic. “Thistlania. Most just call me Thistle.”
“Thistle it is.” He made a clicking sound in the back of his throat and his pack mule dutifully followed.
Thistle made a face. “I can’t tell which stinks more, you or that beast.”
A retort rose to Sliph’s lips, he held it in check. “Your candor is refreshing. We of the Tower have renounced our physical forms. They are to be burned off in the coming fire. Why waste our time tending this flesh?”
“And this is what you’re trying to sell people on? No wonder you have trouble keeping an audience.” Thistle fell into step along side him. She pulled up a bandana to cover her nose, blurring even further the impression that she was just an unruly child. 
The pain of his sharp teeth slicing into his tongue helped focus him, kept him from lashing out at this hanger-on he’d acquired. He thanked Dragotha for the lesson and felt the cut heal over. “Which is better, to be forcefully taken from the world or to continue on, serving it?”
He was taking to empty air. Thistle had stopped a hundred yards back, her bow in her hand. “Why don’t we figure that out together, you abomination?” She fit an arrow to her bow and let it fly. 
Sliph barked a quick prayer and the missile rattled harmlessly off an unseen barrier. Blue energy encircled his hands as he summoned the power of his Order. With so much space between them, the mace at his side was useless. He could wound her with a touch of his finger; but she must have known that too. Another arrow bounced into the woods that lined the path. “This is futile, little one. You only bring the inevitable upon yourself sooner.”
“Better a quick death than an eternity being the slave of your god. You can tell your other ‘brothers’ that when you see them in Hell.” She said something as the next arrow flew, this one stuck in the barrier before falling. Again, he had underestimated her. 
He let the anger that lay coiled in his chest unwind. “Simpleminded beast. You think Dragotha has any need for your bird bones? Yours is the kindling that brings glow to the fire that cleanses the world.” He dropped the barrier as her next arrow flew and opened his mouth wide. Blue dragon fire erupted from his maw, engulfing the arrow and Thistle. She didn’t even have time to scream before she was consumed. 
The fire stopped as quickly as it had begun. Sliph fell back, his mouth closing on the enchanted arrow that pierced the back of his skull. Thistle was nowhere to be seen.
In the distance, a rumble from deep in the earth.

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