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My eyes are filled with fire...
As far as the eye can see lies death and destruction.
I wince at a sharp pain. My shoulder, I think. Pain all over my body has run together so that I can hardly identify where it's coming from.
Ah...definitely the shoulder. Yep.
I think it's dislocated, but I don't care to test the theory. I tuck my arm in my cloak and stand. What meets my gaze is so overwhelming that it's almost impossible for me to comprehend. I feel my heart stop.
I stand at the pinnacle of a mountain. The sky burns a dusky red, staining the low lying clouds around it almost black. The air is hot, dry. My parched mouth tastes fire, smoke, iron, and something else I cannot name.
The mountain is not so high that I'm straining for breath, but high enough so that I can see the surrounding valley.
What have we done?
The smell. Burning flesh.
Burned. The entire valley scorched. Everything that was precious has burned. Everything good and green turned to dust.
I close my eyes.
This had always been a possibility. My mind had shied away from this future, yet here it stood before me. I made my choice. I had sat at that table in the palace, and had set the orders, drew the plans, and commanded without hesitation and led, seemingly, without fear. My brother left me no choice.
I can still recall the tenderness in which he held my face in his hands, promising me that all would be well.
I choke on a groan that tries desperately to push it's way up my throat. I fall to my knees as tears well in my eyes, soothing the parched, irritated skin. I cry silently until I run out of tears, until my body is too thirsty to cry anymore.
I close my eyes until all that is left is the sound of my heart pulsing in my ears, and for a moment it drowns out the noise in my head, the smells and the pain. I listen quietly as life throbs slowly through my body...
I sigh shakily.
I know what I must do.
I bring myself to my feet again and unclasp my hood. I walk to a tree and gingerly lean against it with my bad arm, grasping it firmly near the shoulder. I inhale and hold a breath before swiftly pushing up and over and pressing myself hard against the tree. I gasp, then yell out in agony. I crumple against the trunk for several minutes.
I let myself feel it, count to ten, and then I get up.
I walk along the ridge of the mountain. I search for a sword among the bodies. Most of the men are scorched, their weapons no more than silver pools of metal. At last I find one that can be used in a manner I am familiar with, in the clamped hands of a dead man. I reach for it, but my hand is checked by the sight of a longbow strapped to his back. I sling the bow to my own shoulder, along with the nearly full quiver.
Up here at the top, I can see for miles and miles.
The wind is powerful and cold, but I don't mind. I don't mind at all. I stare out at the horizon.
The sun is beginning to set.
Instead of death, I smell rain, a storm rising from the North where black clouds are forming and heading towards me.
There. Right there.
I see it.
Its body writhes and curls in the distance. It glides in the air with a grace that belies its ferocity, a grace that mesmerizes and ensnares the eyes so wholly that you lose track of the passing moments until your death is upon you.
The last rays of the sun glint hot gold and red against its scales. A feathery plume of fire issues forth from its head; I do not blink.
I reach up and gather my long, red hair and tie it with a shred of silk I rip from my tunic. My brother made me keep it that way to remind myself that I was a lady, and because it reminds him of the mother I never knew.
With a sharp jerk of its head, it notices me, and with alarming speed it shoots through the air in my direction. I pluck an arrow and have it ready to draw my bow.
My doom approaches swiftly, but its time has come to an end.
Even if I die, I will bring it with me.
Tonight it ends.