Miranya walked as fast as she dared through the town, trying not to call attention to herself. She needn’t have worried – townspeople bustled to and fro, carrying piles of belongings and dragging infants along behind them. An air of panic had settled over them all with the smoke that spewed from the mountain overlooking their home. The smell clung to everything, an ever-present hint of scorched earth.
The ground grumbled beneath her feet and Miranya found her gaze drawn to the menacing glow in the smoke-shrouded sky. Rounding a corner, she crashed into someone and bounced back, landing on her behind in the middle of the street. She paled when she saw the deep blue satin robe of the man she had collided with and quickly averted her gaze.
‘Watch where you’re going!’ the man in blue snapped, bending to pick up the wooden box that he had dropped. ‘You had better hope nothing has been broken.’
‘My apologies, venerable one,’ Miranya answered, avoiding eye contact.
The man straightened his hat and hurried off without another glance in Miranya’s direction.
‘Blasted merchants,’ Miranya muttered, getting to her feet and setting off once more. The Merchant’s Guild ran this town, acting as if they were royalty, just because they were rich. Miranya hated them, but they had the power to cause problems for anyone who got in their way.
As soon as she reached the edge of town, Miranya lifted her brightly patterned skirt and broke into a run, her sandaled feet pounding along the sandy path. Her long dark hair flew out behind her, the wind of her passing giving her the only relief she’d had from the oppressive heat in days. Her amulet bounced against her breastbone with the rhythm of her steps and Miranya thought of her mother. Thank all that was holy that she was not here to see what her daughter was about to do.
The acrid smoke tainted Miranya’s mouth, filling it with the taste of destruction. She began to cough and had to slow to a walk, gasping at air that did not want to nourish her. As soon as she had caught her breath, she began to run again. She made the whole journey like that – running until the foul air forced her to walk, coughing and spluttering, until she could run once more.
Even so, she feared she would be too late.
Miranya's Oath is an illustrated epic fantasy serial, that I am collaborating on with the talented artist, Joe Slucher. Each month, a new chapter and accompanying illustration will be released. We also put together a process video where you can watch Joe create the artwork while listening to me reading that month’s chapter.