Moth to Flame

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Captain Morrow’s eyes never left the Prophet.

Lieutenant Nioben lay on the ground beside her where he’d fallen. After the initial shock of the attack, he had settled into a stoic silence. Sweat beaded on his pale Northern skin, and his hands gripped his trousers above the spot where the crossbow bolt protruded from his leg. There was very little blood.

I turned my face away.

“We do have a medic, you know,” I said to Jonath. “If the Captain agrees to take us to Verdure, does he really have to suffer?”

Jonath posture shifted minutely as he registered what I’d said. Us. He shrugged.

“Not up to me,” he said, all casual arrogance. “But I will recommend it. If the Captain agrees.”

“She will.” I didn’t see that she had any other choice. She was trapped, like the rest of us.

Jonath led me to a crate. I sat, miserable, and watched the Prophet’s men ransack the ship. They stacked trunks and boxes along the wall, throwing them open one by one to scan the contents.

The Captain had knelt by Nioben’s side, presumably with the Prophet’s permission. Her hands were still bound.

“Is this really necessary?” she asked, raising her wrists.

The Prophet managed to look sorrowful and smug at the same time.

“I know your reputation, my dear,” he said to her mildly. She bristled visibly at the endearment. “I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. Anyone else,” he clarified. This is all your fault, he seemed to be saying.

A bluish light played across the cavern. Lanterns hung from hooks placed along the walls every ten feet or so. They glowed with a muted phosphorescence that waxed and waned, each lamp according to its own rhythm. Lichen moths flapped their broad wings, disturbed by the light and the commotion. Several dove out through the cave mouth, causing a broad-shouldered guard to duck and curse. A well-dressed woman shrieked and flapped her hands at another, its wings easily as broad as a man’s two hands.

“What will happen to the other passengers?” I asked Jonath.

“They aren’t important. We’ll send up a mayday flag when we leave.”

In one niche a small dark figure unfurled itself from the shadows, golden eyes reflecting the lamplight.


Jonath followed my gaze with his own.

“Ah,” he said lightly. “I wondered where the little monkey had got to. Sorry –” He held his hands in front of him as if to ward me off. “I know he is dear to you. Why don’t you call him down?”

He was deliberately goading me; I knew it. Still, I could not help but set myself against him in this one thing, at least.

“Jax goes where he wills,” I said, pitching my voice to carry. “He is not mine to order about.” Jax sat very, very still. Only his eyes gave him away. They whirled and flickered out of time with the lamps.

“I only suggest it,” Jonath said, an amused glint in his eyes. “The Prophet’s men might not understand he is a… companion of yours. They are very good shots,” he added thoughtfully.

As if to underscore Jonath’s remark, the flat snap of a crossbow made me jump and a bolt buried itself in the wall over the Captain’s head. A lichen moth dropped to the stone floor, one wing torn to shreds. Righting itself, it limped towards the shadows, tried to fly off, but there just wasn’t enough left to its wing. It fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still. The broad-shouldered guard grunted in satisfaction and started winding his bow.

The Prophet picked up the dead moth and tossed it into the shadows it had tried to reach. He brushed his hands on his robe, leaving a faint smudge of grey-green dust. “Pity,” he said to the Captain. “They are quite beautiful, the moths. And edible, if caught properly.”

Morrow drew back from her Second. “If you know my reputation,” she said, ignoring the moth, “then you know I am not accustomed to giving in to threats.”

The guard grinned as if he had just won a bet. He set a bolt in place and glanced at the Prophet.

“Jax,” I said suddenly. “Come on down. I need you.” I knew he would pick up on my terror. I only hoped he would not get in my way.

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This post was written for the yeah write #159 speakeasy, and is is part of the Jade Dragon series. Though I try to make these installments enjoyable as individual pieces, I highly recommend that you read the series from the beginning to really get what’s going on.  Constructive criticism is welcome and encouraged.


13 thoughts on “Moth to Flame

  1. Suzanne says:

    So awesome to see you back in action with this series! Love all the details, from the moth to Jax’s eyes. Seamless use of that sentence prompt! 🙂


    • Christine says:

      Thank you, Renada! It keeps evolving and surprising me. It’s the first thing I’ve written that I haven’t at least somewhat planned out. It’s a little like, well, walking in the fog. 🙂


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