Chapter 31: The Dragon’s Tale

Tina woke up.

Her eyes drifted over to the clock. The glowing numbers told her it wasn’t even 3 yet, but she could feel her traitorous body waking up against her will.

She knew why they shouldn’t go after Burnout right away, but she felt like she was betraying him. After they had taken out the shadow manip, she had finally managed to have an actual conversation with him.

He told her about the urges, about the way his flames tried to take control. He had told her about the night The Court had found him.

He’d told the group that he’d only been taking out a few muggers, but that was a lie.

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George sleepily walked down the street.

He hadn’t slept much since he ran into John. If George hadn’t called out to him, he doubted his old classmate would have ever recognized him.

He had spent every night since staring up at the ceiling, wondering what had changed. Had getting powers really made him that different? Or had that cave done something to him?

Now, he was on his way to the library again. Magic books were rare, even at the university, but right now they were the only lead he had on what that cave could have done to him.

His footsteps echoed off the empty shelves. He hated that sound. Anywhere else in the library it would have been fine, but in this dimly lit corner of the basement, it became unnaturally deep.

He checked his list again. It had been three days since he printed it off, and he was barely half way done.

It would have helped if they books would stay where they belonged, but magic texts, even ones that didn’t have a single spell, didn’t like to stay put. He’d found magic history books hidden between theory books, theory books among magical philosophy, and a lone physics book crushed under the weight of a book on magical flight.

The book he was looking for now was about the introduction of Norse magic to the states, but for all he knew it was on the other side of the country.

He sighed heavily and started his way down the too long aisle. His eyes carefully scanned up and down the-

“That can’t be right.”

He checked the list again.

The book was right there in front of him. It wasn’t supposed to be possible to find one of these books that easily.

He carefully pulled it off the shelf and carried back to the table.

Someone screamed outside the library.

George didn’t hesitate. He vanished deep into the shelves and grabbed his goggles out of his bag.

Burnout slipped out of an open window. He had lost a few minutes changing, but he quickly found the small crowd huddled in front of the library.

He floated over their heads, and landed next to the man lying on the ground.

He was still conscious, but he was hyperventilating and the way he clutched at his leg worried Burnout.

“What happened?”

The man spoke through chattering teeth. “J-just a k-k-kid. F-f-f-froze my leg. That way.”

He pointed west and Burnout saw his leg. The bottom half of it was coated in a thin clear ice, and he could see the man’s ankle reddening from the cold beneath it.

“In a minute,” he said. “Let me see if I can help you first.”

Burnout took a deep breath and focused a small warm flame over his hand. He slowly ran his hand along the man’s leg. The ice began to melt away, but far more slowly than it should have. The flame around his hand grew thicker, and hotter.

The ice melted away almost instantly and Burnout had to tear his hand away from the man’s leg before it started to burn him.

He looked at the crowd. “If no one called an ambulance do it now. Make sure he doesn’t move the leg until they get here.”

He didn’t wait to see if anyone answered before he took off and veered west.

Whoever this guy was, he wasn’t worried about leaving a trail. A long path of ice wound its way along the streets, zipping around parked cars and wide-eyed pedestrians.

Burnout’s eyes followed the path ahead of him. Even with it, the prowler shouldn’t have been able to get too far.

There he was, half a block a head and still moving down the same street. His pale blue outfit blended in well with the ice, but he was hard to miss.

Burnout smirked. He drew his hand back and threw a small ball of fire right in the kid’s path.

He watched the kid hit the edge of his path. He tried to reform it, but the flames burned hotter than his ice could take and he had to jump to the side to avoid them.

Burnout landed behind the kid, who turned to glare at him.

“What the fuck?! You trying to burn me alive!?”

Burnout felt a drop of sweat sliding its way down the back of his neck. He hand’ meant for the fire to burn that hot, but he couldn’t let this kid know that.

“I wouldn’t have let that happen. You weren’t as nice.”

The kid smiled widely. “The old ass had it coming. Bastard made me lose my scholarship.”

The air around Burnout grew warmer. “What?…He could have lost his leg. If your ice was colder it could have broken right off.”

“Yep.” The kid nodded. “Shame really. If he hadn’t screamed I would’ve had time to really get to work on him.”

The air was smoldering now, but the kid didn’t seem to notice. Burnout felt a white heat growing in the back of his head.

“Hey? Do you know what happens when you freeze a guy’s leg solid, and leave the rest of him be. The blood starts to pool around where it’s frozen. The oxygen? Gets sucked right out of it. The cells around it start to die off, one by one.”

The kid started chuckling.

Burnout thrust his hand forward and a lance of nearly white flames shot towards him. The kid’s eyes widened and he tried to dive out of the way.

He was too slow.

The lance clipped his right arm and the kid screamed. His outfit didn’t catch fire, the flames were to focused for that.

It began to melt.

The kid tied to pull at the melting sleeve. He managed to peel away his glove, and Burnout felt himself gag.

What was left could barely be called a hand. Where there was still skin, it was black, cracking. Blood oozed between the cracks like lava seeping its way out and dripping to the ground below.

But it was the screaming that would haunt Burnout, that loud, screeching sound that no one should ever have to make.

Sirens rang out behind him and Burnout dashed off to the alley.

The scream followed him.

The smell of burning meat stung in his nose.

Burnout collapsed.

He could feel the air around him start to thicken with heat.

Flames sprouted all along his body, spreading until he was completely encased in their warm grasp.

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Burnout had lost track of time then. He told Mach that The Court hadn’t found him until after sunset.

Tina couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like, but the look in his eyes when he described the way the flames crawled over him…

She had seen that look before. It was the same look Azriel had when he was healing her, absorbing her illness, that look of loss and confusion that had bored its way into her skull.

Whatever Burnout was feeling right now, Tina knew he shouldn’t have to face it alone.

The glowing numbers ticked to 3:00, and Tina knew why she couldn’t sleep.

She knew how to find Burnout, but she couldn’t do that.

Burnout hadn’t told them much, but he had said enough. Tina could figure out where he was.

But it mean figuring out who he was.

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4 comments

  1. I’m not sure how happy I am with this one. It does what it’s supposed to, but it feels rushed. I’m going to read it in the morning and I might make a few changes. Nothing major, and the main points will be the same, but…well, we’ll see.

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