Fire in the Dark

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Blaze pulled her hood up as she entered the cool tunnels leading deeper into the Labyrinth. Sometimes she could imagine what it would be like to live somewhere open and not beneath the surface of the earth.

She sighed as stale air enveloped her. The smell of sulphur welcomed her home.

Blaze quickly navigated the tunnels filled with copper-haired Fae. Some – like her – seemed healthy enough. Others were covered with burns: the backlash of the curse. She ignored them and the emaciated Dragon Fae. The deal she'd made with the Onyx Labyrinth should ensure their survival.

'Father,' she greeted as she walked into the throne room.

Lava bubbled in a fountain and cast the stone chamber in hues of orange.

'Blaze. I hope you've come with good news.'

'I have.'

He lifted his brow impatiently.

'The Onyx Labyrinth and Echo Labyrinth offer us food, servants and good health in exchange for peace.'

'I don't see anything.'

'It will all arrive within the week.'

'Good. They offer much.'

'Well, they had to. I cured the Duke of the Onyx Labyrinth of the curse. He and his fiancée, one of the princesses of the Echo Labyrinth, were very grateful.'

'You did what?'

'I lifted the Curse. It's the unspoken part of the deal, according to legend. The curse is spreading. I saw –'

'How dare you?'

Blaze watched him warily.

'Each time someone interferes with the flow of the Curse, our people are punished. When we were able to turn into Dragons...'

Blaze tried very hard to keep calm as her father ranted again over what they'd lost. It had been centuries since anyone from the Dragon Court had been able to turn into Dragons, yet there were those who still resented the loss. Like her father.

'The Courts don't properly fear us as they once did. And with you running around lifting the Curse, we are becoming weaker.'

He looked at her with the disdain she was so used to. He would rather have had a son than a soft-hearted daughter. She'd heard it so many times before...

Her reflection in one of the gold plates littering the floor caught her attention. Most dragon nymphs had tawny or russet skin. But no, I just have to be special with my freakishly pink undertone, she thought, gnashing her teeth. I'm not weak.

'The Courts fear us still,' she said loudly, staring her father down. 'That's why they're willing to bargain for peace without knowing about the Curse. We have to lift it whenever it strikes: we're honour-bound to do so.'

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