Kaolin Fire with GUD Issues 0 through 5

kaolin fire presents :: writing :: (for Haiti)

By the Dragon's Tail

This is my donation to the Haiti earthquake relief, per the initiative hosted at Crossed Genres. I was torn on posting this, as it's a favorite of mine and though it hadn't yet found a home I think it would have found a good one eventually. The story is unrelated prehistory to a novel I keep telling myself I'll finish. But then Jay Lake went ahead and posted something of his that was previously unpublished, so who am I to do less? (that's just what it took for me—not intending to put that on anyone else). If you like this, please link to both the story and to the Crossed Genres page, and give whatever you think the story is worth to Haitian earthquake relief. (And I hope Jay will forgive the plagiarising of bits of this into para.)

This has also been published in Bull Spec: Issue #2, Summer 2010. I highly recommend the whole issue (print or PDF)!

By the Dragon's Tail

by Kaolin Fire

"The future's dark. I can tell that from just your shimmer."

Kith glared at the Teller, his tall dark robes and shining crystals. "A feeble mind could say that, seeing me. I'm ruined. Tell me what's to come, so I can provide for my wife and daughter."

The Teller shrugged. "You're to die, Kithshar."

"Sure, and I know that, too. I'll spend this coin elsewise if you're not more forthcoming."

The Teller took Kith's hands in his own, and peered deep into his eyes; Kith flinched at the touch, shy of his mangled hand, the mining accident which had driven him to this desperation. Then he was numb, toe to crown, though he was sure his hair stood on end. The Teller's voice came deeper, and Kith knew it to be ritual. "I share light with you, a beacon in the darkness. Do you hear it?"

Dark, numb, yet somehow cold, Kith could hardly believe there was a room surrounding him; a hint of brimstone came to him, just stronger than the jasmine that had suffused the room moments before.

"Do you hear it?" The voice compelled.

Kith didn't, and shook his head—or tried to. The fight released a tone, golden, sure, a beacon—yes. He nodded, and it came easy. "Yes," he spoke.


Kith could hear the smile in the Teller's voice. Brimstone was stronger now, and he felt fire dancing around the cold, twixt the numbness.

"The dragon's tail. You'll seek it, and die—or be reborn."

Kith coughed, incredulous, as his body returned to him. "A quest? That's not my destiny! I have no such thoughts. My wife, my daughter, that's all since—"

"You came here, and asked." The Teller's voice was tired. "That is all it takes to send you on this path—your choice alone. As strange as it may seem, a ray's path is always straight. Take it or leave, I'll not argue my fee."

"Better coin spent on food than this kind of play!" Kith turned and strode towards the door when the ground shuddered. He tossed a glance back at the Teller who in his gaze denied any complicity with the earth. Kith grunted, but thew payment to the Teller. It disappeared into the Teller's cuffs as if it never was.

Kith stepped into the street, shutting the door behind him. He took several slow, deep breaths, calming himself. The street seemed normal. Either the ground's movement had been a trick of the Teller, or it had been just the usual grumbles of the volcano. Why assume anything different?

But dragons—surely not dragons. It was not the time of year.

Doubting with every fiber of his soul, he still found himself walking towards the mountain.

The climb was torturous, the worse by far for his crippled hand. The air was sharp and cold, and his lungs burned when he finally crested Earth's Mouth, unaccustomed to the rarity of it. Climbs he could do, but he was used to depths, not heights.

The castle lay well below him, guards facing outwards over the city, not interested in a lone man skulking away from their demesne. There would be no dragons, he was sure; but Kith would face his death, whatever it be, dragon's tail or sommat else.

Sommat else it would surely be—but there was an odd darkness seeping from the rim, an almost liquid smoke obscuring the depths. Kith traced the alchemic symbol of light, for luck, then dipped his hand into the smoke. It was warm but insubstantial. He cupped the darkness in his hand but it faded when he tried to lift it.

The ground shook again, stronger. Kith barely kept his footing. Crouching to fours, he tucked his head down as flint fairies burst up through the smoke. A scream, a roar, cacophony—the antithesis of a golden tone—billowed the smoke upwards, and a flash too fast for him to discern blew through, spreading it further still. A dragon? A dragon made that roar?

Kith leaned in, trying to see through the miasma, and at the same time struggled to peer into the sky after whatever had shot out.

A second burst freed his feet from the earth and he was enveloped in darkness; brimstone filled his mouth and nostrils. He coughed and spun, and a third burst passed him—pain scorched along his right arm from its passing.

He screamed and the brimstone ripped his throat as it left him; his lungs fought for clean air but none was to be had. All he had to do was grab a dragon's tail. All he had to do.

So he grabbed with his good hand—but there was nothing there. Three dragons gone out of dozens if they were all leaving, but how long could he fall?

Then some moment of prescience, a flash, gold or copper, perhaps a trick of the light, and he grabbed again—pain seared his palm but he held, though it nearly took his arm off. His arm was numb, or in too much pain, but he forced it to hold as if it were some limb not his own. Clamping his teeth at the pain, he grasped with his other hand. He could barely force that hand to clasp with the burns to his arm, but the tail's jerking helped clench it tight; the tail shook and shuddered but he was caught as well. The dragon's scales were barbed.

Kith held on for life or death and wondered at rebirth. Would he heal just for having touched the dragon? Or was there a more complete rebirth to come?

The dragon fought to shake him off and fought for flight. It flew low, and his boots scraped the volcano's side, but still the dragon's scales held his hands. The dragon banked up, then left, and Kith swiveled along with wounds that dug deeper still, dripping blood.

It entered a dive, then, more fearsome than he'd believed possible; its cry shredded the air and it bellowed sulfurous flames that melted the stone bulwarks below them, digging a grave for them both. Its feet clawed at the air as if fending off invisible attackers and Kith had a moment to wonder what was happening, what was driving the dragon to such madness—but then he was flying through the air without support; the moment, and the dragon, had passed on.

Another cry, a scream, rent the night, and Kith realized it was his. Flesh ripped, and bone; then a sudden impact, and the shrieking silence of deafness. People rushed about—rushing to, rushing away; he'd been flown back to the city, and there were fires all around. A building had broken under his fall, but he was alive.

He had flown with a dragon.

Kith forced his eyes to survey his hands. They were gashed to the bone, and he was missing at least one finger—but in his flesh was the essence of his rebirth. One dragon scale—a living dragon scale, shimmering with all the colors of the sun. That was enough to buy into a burrough and be done with the mine. Truly, though he could never work again, maimed still and now missing at least one finger more—he would never need to. He rejoiced, hobbling home through wreckage, that he could provide for Jin and Mirra, whatever apocalypse befell his world.


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I am soooo fake pre-loading this image so the navigation doesn't skip while loading the over state.  I know I could use the sliding doors technique to avoid this fate, but I am too lazy.