Hlaford Fyrlandum

Summary: "Lightning. Happens every hundred years or so. It was one of those freak late storms, middle of the night. We were lucky all the boys got out safely. That was only thanks to--" (The Gilded Chain, Dave Duncan)

Author's Note: I'd like to thank Robin for getting me to read The King's Blades in the first place, and for picking this story apart and making sure I finished what I started.

Disclaimer: The characters and places in this story belong to Dave Duncan and all the people who get a cut of whatever he makes. I'm just writing this for fun. And suing me won't do you much good. I'm a broke college student.

Without further ado…

The smoke stung his eyes and burned his lungs. He coughed painfully. It felt like someone had taken a sword and driven it into his chest, twisting it around a few times for good measure. Every breath of hot air seared his insides, increasing the pain tenfold. Everything was dark, shrouded in thick blackness. He couldn't see the bed next to his, and he knew it was only a few feet away. Lack of oxygen was making his head spin uncontrollably. There was a faint roaring noise in the background.

It was unbearably hot in the room. It was making him feel feverish. Wasp rolled off the side of his bed and landed on the ground, pressing his stomach to the painfully hot floorboards. He knew he should try and get out, get away from the fire, but his mind had stopped working properly. Its only coherent thought was to get away from the fire, to hide from it all, curl into a ball, protect himself, pretend it wasn't happening. It was a miracle he had thought of getting to the floor at all. It was even more of a miracle that his body complied with the chaos inside his head.

Screams had started to fill his mind. He was almost certain they weren't real. At least, not in this time or place. The screams belonged to people long dead, slaughtered in a fire much more malicious than this one. That didn't matter to him though.

Wasp continued to lie on the ground. He thought for sure that his lungs would explode from lack of air to breathe. The smoke was so thick! He could feel the heat increasing even more, sense the flames licking the wood of the door. It sounded like the entire building was about to collapse around him as fire ate at the wooden supports.

He didn't want to die. He was too young! He was barely fifteen! He hadn't even yet begun to shave! His head hurt, his eyes were watering, and every breath felt like it was tearing him apart from the inside out.

A roaring noise filled his ears when a loud crash came from the direction Wasp thought the door was in. Flames leaped forward, crashing around the figure in the door like a tidal wave on the beach. It was like walking into the face of an angry dragon.

The sound of the fire sent his mind reeling again. People were screaming as flames jumped from building to building. The laughter of the Baels filled the smoky streets. Structures gave way, accompanied by the agonizing moans of the burnt wood. The entire scene was a cacophony of noises—crackling fire, screaming people, collapsing buildings—it never seemed to stop.

The flames seemed to have come back to life as fresh air was let into the room. Some of the smoke spilled out, but by this time it was too late. It had to be too late. He had started hallucinating. No one in their right mind would be able to withstand that fire. But there he was, naked except for the last remnants of charred cloth. His best friend Raider had come back to save him.

He had heard stories about raids like this. The Baels were always naked savages, merciless beasts who would stop at nothing to pillage the defenseless towns and kidnap its inhabitants to enslave them. He was scared; he didn't want to end up like that. His body only hesitated an instant before he was running, hiding in the only place he thought might be safe. The fear had paralyzed him as the Monsters ran about above him, shouting in their barbaric language.

If the fire hadn't sent him into a bout of flashbacks, and the lack of oxygen hadn't kept his mind spinning, Wasp might have tried to stand up on his own, instead of just lying in a pitiful ball on the ground. As it was, he didn't even have the strength to cough any more. He was only gasping now and then for what little air might be left in the black room. Every moment he was still awake was pure agony.

His skin felt tender as Raider picked him up and wrapped him in a blanket. How the material had survived the fire was a mystery. Almost as much as how Raider had walked through the inferno unscathed.

The floorboards creaked pitifully. It sounded like people screaming. Wasp's mind drifted back to that other fire again. The flames reflected off of Raider's red hair and it made him jolt in fear. Images of Baelish pirates seized him and he struggled as best he could. Strong arms tightened around him.

No! They can't have captured me! His mind screamed at him to fight off the pirate that was carrying him off to be enslaved. I won't let them do this to me! His fists pounded on the hot flesh with everything he had left.

Suddenly the floor dropped out between them, and they were falling. Burning embers were everywhere. He could smell burnt hair and burnt flesh. His stomach chose that moment to empty itself. The bile stung his raw throat. He tried to cough again, but it did nothing to help.

It seemed eons before they were assaulted by cool air. It stung like a thousand bees across Wasp's burning flesh, and the ground was cold even through the blanket wrapped around him. Wasp tried to suck in as much air as possible in those first seconds, but it only made him cough even more. He was choking and gasping for breath like a fish out of water.

Vaguely, he could hear someone calling his name, shaking his shoulder gingerly. He responded by rolling over and being sick again. After he was finished, the strong arms picked him up once more. He tried to struggle again, but the arms were still stronger.

The smell of smoke faded slightly as the sound of the roaring conflagration was left behind. Cool stone hallways were entered. The lingering magic of the Forge gave away their location as he felt himself placed on the large metal anvil that stood in the center of the octogram. As the chanting started, he allowed himself to drift into blissful unconsciousness at last, accepting the fact that Raider would keep him safe…

A/N: Please leave a review. I like to know what people think of my writing.