A’a. That’s what Sai called it.
Dane crawled from one ebon rock to another, gritting his teeth. This stuff was nasty sharp. He’d slipped earlier and cut his leg a little. Now he wished he was wearing gloves, because even gripping these things for support was like holding the wrong end of a knife.
“You doing okay?” Sai turned to look back at him. “You know why we’re crawling, right? These rocks are loose, and they’ll slice you to your bone if you fall on them.”
“Yup.” Dane reached for the next rock. “I got that.”
“Good. It kind of stinks, but—whatever. It’s the alternate route, since the mist blocked the main route.”
“I figured out alternate routes over the years to avoid the mist.” He flashed him a confident grin. “Gotta be prepared, right?”
“Yup,” Dane grunted, crawling ahead. “Good to know we’re not trapped.”
“And we should be past this flow in about—oh! Right now.” He pointed a few meters ahead, where the a’a was breaking. Another, more silvery form of solidified lava lay there, layered with still ripples like it was a pond being assaulted by pebbles. Pahoehoe, according to Sai. “I figured it wouldn’t take too long to get to the pahoehoe.”
“Good to know.” Dane really didn’t feel like talking right now. He felt like any second he would slip and scrape himself. Maybe he could—
A low, rumbling growl.
He stopped, ears perked. What was that?
The stones under him trembled a little. He heard the growl again, so deep he could feel it in his bones.
“Don’t move,” Sai whispered, looking back at him. “It detects movement.”
It? Dane’s muscles tensed. His eyes darted around the cavern, and he spotted a giant lava waterfall across the canyon they were crawling along. It seemed to be getting blurry.
No…not blurry. It was trembling.
He zoomed in. A shape was forming inside it. Two holes opened up in the lavafall, like eyes, but with blue flames for pupils. A gaping hole opened beneath them, with sharp points of flame aligned at the top and bottom—fangs?—and a forked tongue of purple flame emerged, licking at the air.
He tried not to swallow, though his throat felt dry. It seemed as though the flames in this thing’s eyes were looking at him…it knew he was here…
Then, with the roaring of a thousand flames, it emerged from the lavafall.
It was long, serpentine. Blue flames sprouted like ridges on its back, and long spurts of blue flame emerged like narrow legs from its body as it moved. It twirled once, floating through the air, its body a rushing mass of purple flame.
It stopped before Dane. It hovered in place, jaws opening as its forked tongue tested the air. The flames in its eyes seemed to gleam as it studied him. Blue flames sprouted along the ridge of its snout, burning furiously as the dragon closed its jaws.
Dane waited, holding his breath. Could it really see him? What was it waiting for?
Then it opened its mouth—and a loud, grinding metallic shriek rang out. The shriek echoed across the cavern like a thousand screams, piercing Dane’s ears. He flinched, gritting his teeth.
It shrieked again—and this time, purple mist came flowing from its mouth.
“Run!” Sai started scrambling along the rocks. “It knows we’re here! It knows!”
Dane couldn’t stop staring at the dragon’s eyes. Those twinkling, leaping flames dancing in hollow sockets…
The mist was flowing, swirling around him…he could hear whispers, the voices of his brother and sister…
“Dane! Snap out of it!”
He blinked. Time to move. He scrambled up the rocks, slipping and scraping his legs and arms. He had to get out of here! “Coming!”
“Come on, man! What are you doing?”
The mist was closing in on him. He could see shapes forming…his sister was pointing at him, saying something…he tried to ignore her…
You’re such a child!
“Am not!” Dane shouted, slipping as he rushed up the a’a. “I just like to have fun sometimes!”
Fun? She clutched her hair, eyes squeezed shut. Do you take anything seriously?
“Yes!” Dane couldn’t see the rocks anymore. Everything was darkening around him…
“Dane!” A hand reached through the mist and grabbed his arm. He felt himself being yanked—his legs scraped against something—then he rolled onto smooth ground, the voices fading. Mist crept after him as he got to his feet.
A grinding, metallic shriek. Dane’s arms were shaking as he looked back, his legs bleeding. The mist rose like a tide, its fringes reaching for him like claws—
“Move!” Sai pulled him along, and Dane stumbled after him. They ran down a narrow tunnel, a piercing shriek echoing after them.
Why wasn’t the dragon overtaking them? Was the creature toying with them?
“Up here!” Sai hopped up a ledge, and Dane followed. They sprinted, leapt onto the wall—Dane rolled as gravity shifted—and ran beside a river of silver lava. He dared not look back.
This is a scene from my next book Brekh’cha: Dragon’s Fang, available on Amazon.
The Flames Chronicles, Book One
The Flames Chronicles, Backstory to Ayphae
The Flames Chronicles, The world of Ayphae
The Flames Chronicles, Book Two