The Masquerade: Chapter 4

Æstella ran towards the front door to her home at the back of the smithy. With the house up in flames, she knew she didn’t have long before either the fire or smoke consumed her. If her father really was still inside, she knew he had even less time to get out safely.

The front door was burning, but that didn’t stop Æstella. Running full speed, she turned her shoulder and jumped through the door. The fire weakened door gave way completely to her charge and, luckily, didn’t set her clothes ablaze.

Their house was pretty small. Æstella now stood in the largest room, which had little more than enough room to fit the kitchen and table they ate on. A quick glance told her that her father was not here, so she moved to look into the two adjoining bedrooms.

The bedrooms sat side-by-side and didn’t take long to discover they were both empty. Hope was now rising in Æstella. With the house clear of her father it was very possible that he was safe elsewhere. As she was thinking this, a support beam that held the roof collapsed into what used to be her room. While her father might now be safe, it was very clear that she was still in very dangerous place.

With the house clear, the large, single room smithy was the only place left to check. Æstella crossed to the door that connected the house to the smithy and threw it open. Thick, black smoke blasted through the open doorway. Æstella ducked to the side and bent over coughing from the smoke. Her skin flared up and her eyes watered from the intense heat that had blasted through along with the smoke.

Her coughing subsiding, Æstella leaned back to look through the doorway. She was taken aback by the heat that was still emanating from the other room, but she put her hand up to shield her face and leaned back again.

Everything in the room appeared to be on fire. The tools that hung on walls and support columns gleamed as if they had been thrown into one of the forges while the tools sitting on flaming, wooden tables appeared to already be melting.

With all the fire filling up the large room, it was taking Æstella much longer to scan the room for her father. The hope was slowly building as she saw more and more room empty of anyone, but then she saw it. On the ground near the forge she had worked at early that morning was a body. Most of the clothes appeared to have burned off. The skin that was visible was either badly burned or charred.

Having grown up near a forge, Æstella knew that the burns were serious, at times even life threatening. She couldn’t shake the hope that had been building during her search. Maybe, she thought, if I could just get him outside, then he could get treatment and survive.

As she took her first step through the doorway however, the roof over the smithy finally gave way to the hungry flames. Æstella stumbled backwards as another wave of smoke and heat washed over her. A few embers had singed her skin and clothes, but she was frozen in place from what just happened. Hope quickly turned into despair as the realization of what she witnessed came over her. Her father was dead and there was no way to save him.

Destruction, Despair, Death.

Rage slowly built inside her replacing the despair. She was angry at herself for not being able to save him. If only she had been there, if she hadn’t left the village that morning, then her father wouldn’t be dead.

No, she thought, if I had been here then I would probably be dead as well. There was nothing I could do to save him, she concluded.

The rage was starting to subside back into despair. She couldn’t save him, the wheels turning in Æstella’s head, so it wasn’t her fault that he was dead. As she came to this realization however, the rage began to build once again, not towards herself, but the true source of her father’s death and her own pain. The dragon.

Blinded by rage, Æstella made her way back into her father’s bedroom without a care for the house burning around her. If she was going to take revenge for her father and fight the dragon, then she was going to need something that her father had kept safe and stored away her entire life. She walked across her father’s small bedroom to a wardrobe standing in the far corner of the room. She threw open the doors of the wardrobe and stared inside, familiarizing herself with what she hadn’t seen in years.

<– Chapter 3 Chapter 5 –>
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