Part One

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This is my entry for Brian Kesinger's Visual Storytelling Challenge. The idea of the contest is to tell the story of what's happening in this picture in 2,500 words or less. 

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            Sir Remington Brandabum approached his queen with wings drooping in defeat. Bowing low, he said the words he'd been avoiding since becoming chief of all the dragons in the Royal Guard. "Your Majesty, I think we should evacuate."

The queen, perched upon the High Stone, lifted her chin and released a long, slow breath that sent thin trails of smoke curling up from her nostrils. "I don't accept that, Sir Remington. There has to be another answer. Evacuating would be playing into Calcine's hands, would it not?"

"All of Tarragon is burning, your majesty. Calcine has used the great gift of fire against us."

"All of Tarragon is not on fire," croaked the ancient being curled on the floor beneath the window.

"Explain, please," the queen demanded.

"Is this palace on fire? Is the temple that holds the Flame of Quintessence burning?" A smoky wheeze that could have passed for either a laugh or a snort of derision burst forth from him. "The youth exaggerates."

Remington threw up his claws. "OK, Fulminate. You win. Ninety percent of Tarragon is burning. Those who remain loyal are huddling at our doorstep in fear, because there is nowhere else left to go."

The old one lifted his head and glared at the chief. "You forget yourself. I, too, have been chief of the Royal Guard. I lead the brave ones for longer than you've been alive, in a time more treacherous than you can imagine. Do not think that I am ignorant, simply because I am old."

The queen flew down to the floor between them. "Do not bicker. Fulminate, my current chief knows all too well the pain of the times you speak of. When we lived among the humans, his parents were among the slain."

"And I've no desire to return to their god-forsaken world, your majesty, but I don't see any alternative," Remington said.

She turned toward the elder dragon and asked, "And, you? You seem to think Sir Brandabum's idea is foolhardy."

"I do," he agreed, coughing out another pathetic wheeze. "If the fact that evacuating isn't the very thing that the wizard, Calcine, most desires, there is the Flame of Quintessence to consider. There is no guarantee that we can move it safely and, as you well know, the death of the flame is the death of us all."

"So what would you suggest? We no longer have enough dragons to fight him. Too many are excited about the prospect of ruling over the humans."

"Or terrified of what he will do if they oppose him," the queen added.

Fulminate shook his wrinkled head and laid it back down on the warm stone floor. "You need to find an artist."

The younger dragons exchanged a look. Had the old one lost his mind?

"A human artist," he added.

"You must stop forcing me to ask for explanations," the queen said.

"It would be good to teach the young ones history, majesty. Tarragon, and everything it contains, was created by humans. Humans, therefore, have the power to alter it, or even create a whole new reality."

She flapped her wings in agitation. "That's just a myth."

"Is it?" Fulminate asked with a sleepy smile.

"Are you saying that you believe the stories are true? We live inside of an epic mural of some sort? Figments of a human's imagination?"

"I didn't say it. It has been said."

The queen flew back up to her perch. Remington approached the High Stone and gazed up at her. All his life he'd trained to serve this powerful female. If he allowed Calcine to win, it would have all been in vain. "Time is short, your majesty." He tried to sound braver than he truly felt. "I admit, I doubt the legitimacy of what Sir Fulminate says."

This time, the wheeze could be mistaken for nothing other than laughter.

Remington went on with determination. "But it seems there is no other option. If it's true that an artist can save us, then I must go through the gateway at once to find one."

"And if it turns out to be no more than a legend?" she asked.

"Then all is lost, so we're no worse off than we are now."

The queen stood very still, gazing down at him. Outside the window, the Royal Forest burned and the flickering light cast dancing shadows across her body. "Go, Sir Remington. Find us a savior."

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