The chasing shadows rose up into a massive pillar that bounded along after them, sending down a rain of shadowy death bombs.
“Oh, man. This is worse than that time I tried mom’s acid…”
Sierra muttered, dodging and weaving the exploding shadows of death.
One of the shadow bombs came right at her, but she zigged around a tree, darted beneath Tyraxas and to the other side of the dragon’s massive frame, avoiding the blast.
“Ha! Have to do better than that, necrotic penis monster!”
Sierra shouted back.
That taunt seemed to have hit home, as the shadowy form began to break apart, first into the shapes of animals, and then wisping away to nothing.
The shadowed clearing was a welcome relief from the heat and the chase. As Sierra landed, a flaming feather from her wings drifted down, igniting a patch of grass. Sierra stared into the flames, her eyes becoming unfocused.
“Oh, fuck. Not again…”
Sierra sat in a bar somewhere, in a shadowed corner, swirling a drink in her hand. She looked down at the nice dress she was wearing. The place seemed rather upscale, more along the lines of the hotel bar in her hotel in Nashville than any dive she had frequented growing up in Whykin.
At the table sat a young woman, and Sierra blinked, and then stared. Jacqueline Mackenzie was about twenty years younger, golden blonde hair falling in a cascade down her shoulders and shimmering in the low light of the club. She wore a beautiful low cut dress of expensive quality. It showed off her lush curves, and the color brought out her blue eyes. She sipped a drink with a rather bored expression, brushing off several attractive young men that attempted to flirt as she jotted down some notes on a napkin.
A man slid onto the stool beside Jacqueline. He was older than her by maybe ten years. His hair was red, like the streaks of red in Sierra’s auburn locks, and his eyes a brilliant green, like Sierra’s eyes. He wore a black perfectly tailored bespoke suit with a red tie. And he was drop dead gorgeous, with perfect features and a handsome, dashing smile.
Sierra muttered, sipping her drink and staring at the man.
the man said to the bartender. “Two glasses. Leave the bottle
.” He had a slight accent, but Sierra couldn’t place it.
The man poured the two shots and used a perfectly manicured finger to push one over in front of the woman sitting next to him.
Jacqueline looked up at the man, then at the drink, and raised an eyebrow. “I have a drink already,”
she said. “Thank you.”
She turned back to her notes, giving him the brush off.
“Ah, but I noticed you are drinking club soda. That is hardly a way to celebrate your new promotion.”
Jacqueline looked up with surprise. “How did you--?”
She studied him, his handsome features. “Do I know you?”
“Not yet, but I do hope we get to know each other...intimately.”
Jacqueline scoffed. “Hardly,”
she said, turning back to her work.
“No, I think you want to talk to me.”
Sierra blinked. Had she seen a flash of...flames behind the man’s eyes?
Jacqueline looked up, blinking, staring into his eyes. Her features softened, almost slackened. She smiled.
she said, offering her hand.
The man smiled. “Aran,”
he introduced himself. “Drink up.”
Jacqui looked down at the shot of tequila, then at her club soda. She shrugged and tossed back the shot. She gasped as it burned down her throat.
Aran said, tossing back his own and pouring the each another. He lifted his to her in a toast. “To good careers, and beautiful babies.”
Jacqui laughed. “I’m pretty sure those two are mutually exclusive,”
she said. “I’m not looking to settle down.”
She tossed back the tequila, doing better this time.
Aran grinned. “Neither am I,”
Sierra lost track of how many drinks her mother had with the handsome stranger. She waved to the bartender for another drink herself. When she turned her attention back, Jacqui and Aran were on the dance floor, in each others’ arms.
Sierra wandered over to the bar and picked up the napkin her mother had been writing on. It was notes of some kind. It looked like the beginnings of some kind of speech, politics. Royal politics. Sierra looked back at her mother, laughed and leaning against Aran, staring deeply into handsome man’s eyes. Did she see the flames there that Sierra saw?
Sierra couldn’t remember her mother ever talking about her life. Sierra assumed they had always been poor, her mother a whore and a euphie addict. What was all of this? This had to be a fantasy, right?
Sierra looked back at the napkin. Flames had begun curling the edges, consuming the delicate paper. “Shit!”
she exclaimed, reaching out for the fire to put it out.
It didn’t go out. It engulfed her hand. It didn’t burn her, but...she couldn’t control it! Fire had never disobeyed her like this before! Not since the day she first manifested, since she burned her mother and boyfriend, burned her tenement and everyone inside.
Her mother! Sierra’s eyes went to Jacqui. She had her eyes closed, cheek resting against Aran’s strong, muscled chest. Aran stared right at Sierra, those flames behind his green eyes. He gave her a knowing smile.
Sierra’s heart skipped. She looked around. Flames had started licking at the walls and curtains of the club. No one seemed to notice, even when the fire caught dresses. People burned, blackened, then melted like wax, the pop and stench of boiling fat, so familiar to Sierra. She inhaled deeply of the smoke and flames, still getting a thrill despite the horror. It was so primal, so...free.
The sounds of the club and flames faded. Sierra opened her eyes to darkness. Moans touched her ears, soft gasps and pants, a whispered name, “Aran!”
Sierra called on her powers, seeing through the darkness. She looked on a bed, two naked bodies entwined in passion, moving as one.
Sierra gagged. “Oh! Oh, fuck, no!”
she exclaimed, turning away quickly.
“Yes! Aran! Faster!”
“Oh, hell no! I am not going to watch this!”
Sierra raced for the door, yanking it open just as she heard her mother reach ecstasy.
Sierra fled out into the rest of the apartment, the echoes of her mother’s passion chasing her. “There is not enough brain bleach in the world to make me forget that,”
Sierra said with a groan.
She paused, looking around. The apartment was upscale. Luxurious, even. It was twice the size of their old tenement, maybe more. Two bedrooms, one of which had been converted into an office, it appeared. Sierra opened a curtain and looked out into the darkness at the lights of Whykin. She recognized the building. It was an upscale residential tower in center city, and she was staring out at the royal palace.
Her gaze fell on a picture, and Sierra picked it up. It was her mother, in graduation robes from the Royal University of Whykin, holding her diploma, flanked by an older man and woman. Who were they? Sierra had never seen them before, but they shared her mother’s features, and looked very proud of their girl.
Sierra put the picture down again and wandered into the kitchen. She found a good bottle of tequila and opened it, drinking straight from the bottle as she poked around.
Movement from the door caused Sierra to jump and spin around, nearly dropping the bottle of tequila. She put it down and stared at Aran where he stood in all his naked glory. She couldn’t help but run her eyes down his form.
Aran met Sierra’s eyes. Flames licked behind them again as he grinned at her.
Sierra felt heat rise in her, sympathetic, calling. It wasn’t desire or lust. Something else. Something more...kindred.
“Yes, Jacqui will do nicely,”
Aran said, though Sierra wasn’t sure if he was speaking to her or not. She moved past her and picked up the bottle of tequila, turning to head back to the bedroom.
Sierra said. “You leave my mother alone!”
She leapt at Aran, but her arms only embraced flames. Her clothes caught fire. Again she instinctively reached to put them out, and again they disobeyed. Her dress burned away, leaving her naked.
Sierra spun around, finding Aran standing in the doorway. He took a sip from the bottle and ran his eyes over Sierra’s naked body. “Definitely a beauty.”
The normally unashamed girl quickly covered herself with her hands, but Aran was already walking toward the bedroom.
Sierra yelled, charging after him. She burst into the bedroom and pulled up. Her mother was stretched out, having fallen asleep, drunk, worn out, and naked, with a satisfied smile on her face.
Aran sat beside her, stroking Jacqui’s hair. He leaned down and kissed her forehead. Then he looked at Sierra. Their eyes met again. She felt the fires inside of her stoke, felt the flames licking through her hair, dancing in time with the fires behind his eyes. She tried to tamp it down, but her fires refused to obey, responding with delight. The carpet burst into flame, the curtains caught.
Aran leaned down over Jacqui. He kissed her stomach. There was the sizzle and scent of burning flesh. Jacqui stirred fitfully. Aran sat up, revealing a kiss shaped mark burned into Jacqui’s stomach.
Sierra remembered that mark. Her mother had always said it was a birthmark.
Aran stood and got dressed. He walked past Sierra, not even acknowledging her. She heard the front door close as the bedroom and her mother burned away.
Sierra blinked and staggered, falling to her knees in the grass as the memory or vision left her, the fire that had contained it going out. She gasped, her red hair falling about her shoulders her wings extinguishing in a puff of smoke.
“What the hell was that!”