the first scene of

Dreams of Fire

   The cold stone corridor stretched before Kara as she walked its length. In the silence of the passage, her quiet footsteps echoed against its gray walls. Every steel door she passed marked a memory of the events that led her to this point. Every step she took struck her like a pang of regret. She barely felt the cold draft as it touched her pale face and hands or heard the sound of her brother’s footsteps behind her. Kara’s mind was flooded with memories of fire, blood, and death. In the ghastly glow that filled the passage she could again see the blood of a Sacrifice and the deathly pallor of one she had lost. The memories haunted Kara and burned her mind’s eye as she drew closer
to the cell at the end of the corridor.

   Kara stood before the last door, the culmination of her dark reverie. Her heart throbbed for the one on the other side of it, the one she could not save. Suddenly her brother, John, touched her shoulder. She turned and looked up at him; his pale blue eyes fixed on her.

   “Kara, you don’t have to see her if you don’t want to,” he said softly.

   For a moment, she considered walking away. It would be so much easier to leave and pretend as if nothing happened. It would be so easy to not have to look upon the one she had failed, but Kara had not come to do what was easy. She came to do what was necessary.

   “No, I need this,” Kara replied firmly.

   John looked at her as if he were about to say something, but even as the words formed in his mind he held back. He cast a spell to unlock the door and pushed it open. The door creaked as it swung on its hinges, and a cold gust blew out of the cell. Kara’s short blonde hair fluttered in the wind. She stepped through the threshold as John pulled the heavy door shut behind her.

   In the corner of the cell sat a young woman forlorn on the stone floor. Her bare feet were drawn toward her as she shivered in a tattered robe. Her wrists were bound and shackled with thick chains. The woman glared up at her with dark eyes that blazed with anger.

   “What are you doing here?” she growled— the searing words stung with the heat of her wrath.

   “I came to say goodbye and… I’m sorry,” Kara said. She could barely maintain eye contact with the woman in chains. Her simmering gaze pierced Kara like a dagger.

   “Sorry? Is that all you have to say to me?” the prisoner exclaimed.

Kara’s eyes grew misty as another winter gust blew through the tiny barred window of the cell. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you from yourself.”

   “Save me? Is that what you think you were trying to do? I was so close to getting him back and you interfered!” the woman yelled as she stabbed an accusing finger at her.   

“I couldn’t let you cross that line, Charlotte. I didn’t want you to become… this,” Kara said.

   “I’ll make you pay for what you stole from me!” Charlotte exclaimed. “I will get out of here, I will find you, and I will make you pay!”

   Kara’s eyes dropped to the floor. “No. You won’t. Goodbye, Charlotte.” She turned away and pounded on the door.

   “I will burn you alive and reduce everything and everyone you love to ashes!” the prisoner bellowed. John opened the door from outside just as Kara turned back to her. 

   “If you ever come after me or anyone I care about, I will stop you,” she said firmly.

   “Oh, like how you stopped me from killing Anthony?” Charlotte replied with a chilling smile. She took a step toward the chained woman, but John grasped her arm from behind. 

   She tossed her head back and laughed.

   “Don’t you ever speak his name again!” Kara shouted. 

   Charlotte’s laughter echoed against the walls of her cell. “I hope you look over your shoulder everywhere you go! Whenever you see fire, you will see my face and hear my voice. Let my words be burned into your memory! I will raze everything you love to the ground, and I won’t stop until the bones of your loved ones are ashes at your feet!” 

Kara raised her hand and Charlotte was suddenly hurled backward into the wall by some invisible force. Her feet hung suspended above the stone floor and her arms outstretched at her sides. 

   But Charlotte simply gazed at Kara with dark, simmering eyes and a malevolent grin. 

   “Kara, enough!” John said quietly.

   Kara’s anger boiled as she stood with her hand raised, her adversary pinned to the wall. For a long moment the two women locked eyes; one firmly set to defend— the other determined to destroy, but John was right. Charlotte was imprisoned, stripped of her freedom and her magic. There was no escape for her. Kara dropped her hand and Charlotte’s feet hit the ground.

   “Let’s go,” John said in a gentle voice. Kara slowly turned away from Charlotte and followed her brother out of the cell. 

   “I’ll be seeing you… friend!” Charlotte called as the door slammed shut behind them.

The first scene of

Dreams of Thunder

   Saba stood beneath the red glow of the Tower as she clutched her mother’s hand. A silver bracelet sparkled around her wrist, but Saba didn’t understand why she needed it. There were so many things she didn’t understand lately. Her grandfather was branded an outlaw. His school had been shut down. The Council arrested and imprisoned him along with all his professors and students. Why had the Council done all these things? What had her grandfather done that was so wrong? Earlier that morning, when she asked her mother where they were going, she knelt before her with tear-filled eyes and said, “We are going to see your grandfather.” But refused to elaborate any further.

   Thunder echoed in the sky above as the crimson glow of the Tower shone beneath the iron gray clouds. Her mother’s dress rippled in the wind and all else was silent. The people who stood behind Saba and her mother stared forward; their stoic faces unreadable to Saba’s eyes. Her small hand perspired in her mother’s grasp and her skin prickled with goosebumps. Why were they all gathered here? Where was her grandfather?

   Before them was a raised platform with steps that led up from the ground. Behind them was a prison, a stone fortress that stabbed at the sky. Distant flashes of lightning flickered in the clouds above. Raindrops sprinkled the ground at Saba’s feet. No one uttered a word.

   Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Council march up a cleared lane through the crowd. Their stoic faces betrayed no emotion as they ascended the steps and looked outward across the multitude. At the center was a tall, imperious woman with pale skin and a dark blazer. Rain drizzled from the sky and trickled down her hooked nose. Her brown hair was pulled back tightly in a bun and her steel gray eyes looked beyond the crowd. At her right side was a man in his mid-forties. His light brown skin was tinged with red beneath the glowing Tower and his short black hair shivered in the breeze. Next to him, was a tiny frail woman with narrow slits for eyes. Saba shrank from her presence. Lastly, was a man of wide girth and dark complexion. His massive nostrils flared beneath a severe gaze and his mouth fixated in a frown.

   Then finally, Saba’s grandfather appeared with two grey-coated Enforcers behind him. The three of them marched through the crowd, then up the steps where they stood before the Council on the stage. Saba didn’t understand. What was about to happen? Her eyes flickered urgently between her mother and the Council. “Mother! Why is grampa up there?” she asked. But her mother only shook her head and hushed her. 

   The woman at the center of the stage stepped forward and spoke. “Amir Zarqawi. For the outlawed practice of Necromancy, the Council hereby sentences you to death. Do you have any last words?” Bronte Kastellanos’ words boomed over the crowd as rain drizzled from the sky. A cold weight sunk in Saba’s stomach as the Head Councilwoman’s ominous words echoed in her ears.

   “Mother! You must do something!” Saba cried.

   But her mother only wept. “There is nothing we can do.”

   Amir Zarqawi locked eyes with Kastellanos. He held his chin high and dropped his shoulders. “You cannot stop the spread of knowledge,” he said.

   The Head Councilwoman looked back at him defiantly and gave the signal to the executioner. One of the Enforcers gripped Amir’s arm and turned him to face the crowd. Then his fingers moved together in complex patterns before the silent onlookers. 

   “Look away, child!” Saba’s mother said. Then she shielded her daughter’s eyes with her hand.

   Saba twisted her head this way and that. She tried to pry her fingers away but to no avail. In her blindness, she heard the crack of lightning followed by the rancid odor of burnt flesh. Saba finally managed to rip her mother’s hand away when through misted eyes she saw her grandfather’s corpse tumble from the stage and hit the ground with a thud. Wisps of smoke rose in curls from his charred remains as thunder roared in the sky.

   Saba shrieked.