The Raging Fires

The Raging Fires by T. A. Barron Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: The Raging Fires by T. A. Barron Read Free Book Online
Authors: T. A. Barron
on the knoll, its back to the rowan tree, its wings spread wide. Its fangs glistened, as did the sword it held in a clawed fist. My own sword!
    I made an effort to stand, but fell back to the ground, exhausted. The mouth drew nearer. I tried to wriggle away. My body felt heavier than stone.
    There was no strength left in my limbs. Nor in my mind. The cavernous mouth started to blur at the edges. Everything looked red. Bloodred.
    I heard a crack, like splitting wood. The piercing shriek came again. Then silence—along with total darkness.

    I awoke to find myself, once again, on the leaves. Something brittle and tasteless clung to my tongue. I spat it out. A twig! Someone—my mother—lifted her head from my chest, where she seemed to have been listening. Tears stained her cheeks, but her sapphire eyes shone with relief.
    Lightly, she stroked my brow. “You have awakened, at last.” She looked up into the rustling boughs of the rowan tree and closed her eyes in thanks.
    At that instant, I glimpsed just behind her a pair of huge, bony wings. The kreelix! I rolled to the side, smacking into her full force. She cried out, tumbling down the slope like an apple dropped from a branch. With a single leap, I landed on my feet. Wobbly though I was, I positioned myself between her and the dreaded beast.
    Then I caught myself: The kreelix hung as limp as a discarded scarf, suspended by the branches of the rowan tree. Thick, gnarled boughs wrapped around each of its wings, while several more pinned the furred body against the trunk. Its claws, once so threatening, dangled lifelessly, while its head drooped forward, obscuring the fangs. A deep gash, stained with purple blood, cut across its neck.
    “Don’t worry.” Cairpré’s hand closed on my shoulder. “It’s quite dead.”
    My mother puffed up behind us. “So am I, almost.”
    I whirled around. “I’m so sorry! I thought . . .”
    “I know what you thought.” She forced a grin, even as she rubbed a tender spot on her shoulder. “And I am glad to know beyond doubt, my son, that your strength has returned.”
    I turned again to the kreelix, draped against the tree. “How . . .?” I began. “But . . . it was—how?”
    “I do so love someone who can ask a clear question.” Rhia emerged from behind the trunk, grinning sassily at me. In her hand she held my sword, gleaming in the scattered sunlight of the knoll. She lifted the scabbard from the ground, thrust in the blade, and handed them to me. “I thought you’d prefer your sword without all that blood. Such a ghastly purple color. Reminds me of a rotten fish.”
    Seeing the confusion on my face, she glanced at Cairpré and Elen. “I suppose we ought to fill him in. Otherwise he’ll be peppering us with unfinished questions all day long.”
    “Tell me!” I roared. “What in the world happened? To me—and that flying maggot over there.”
    Cairpré’s head wagged. “I tried to warn you. It all happened too fast. A kreelix lives on magic, you see. Eats it. Sucks it right out of its prey, as a bee takes nectar from a flower. Since I, like everyone else, thought the last kreelix died centuries ago, I never bothered to tell you about them before. Foolish error, Greatest terror. A better tutor would have taught you that the only way to battle one—as the wizards of old learned the hard way, I’m afraid—is slyly. Indirectly. The worst thing you can do is to confront it head-on, exposing all your magic.”
    “As I did.” Buckling the sword, I shook my head. “I had no idea what hit me. There was this flash of scarlet light . . . Then all my strength, all my life it seemed, was ripped away. Even my second sight felt crippled.”
    The eyes beneath the bushy brows gazed at me solemnly. “It could have been worse. Far worse.”
    I tried to swallow, but my throat felt rougher than the rowan’s bark. “I could have died, you mean. So why didn’t I? Right then?”
    His hand reached over and

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