The Fire Drake: Chapter 1

An origin story in the Comstock Chronicles

Before you dive into this story, I want to give you some background on how this gem came about. Over the summer, I asked my readers which character they wanted to read more about. Ross Galbraith was the clear winner. So, over the course of the next several weeks, I will be releasing a new chapter in this original novella about Ross Galbraith.


Azroth shuffled his twelve-year-old feet down the dirt lane as fast as he could without swinging his arms. Those he passed gave him a cursory glance before averting their eyes. They had no desire to be involved.

“Please let Imogen be there,” he whispered to himself over and over.

The faster he moved, the more the burning in his arms increased. If his old governess wasn’t at home, he wasn’t sure what he’d do.

At last, he topped the rise, and Imogen’s sprawling villa came into view. Three young children chased each other around the nut trees near the home, squealing with delight. Tears of relief stung Azroth’s eyes as he rushed up the lane to the white stone home. Imogen stood in the yard with her hands on her hips and scolded the little ones.

Then her eyes caught on Azroth and a look of deep pain crossed her warm features.

Pity rose on her face, and Azroth knew he must look worse than he’d imagined. He hadn’t checked in the mirror as he dashed from the dark confines of the place that should be his home. His father had been merciless this time. The man was determined to make Azroth the most dangerous fire user in this land, next to his brother Zared. However, Nero’s methods to bring the fire out in his sons did not produce equal results.

Where fear and pain invigorated his brother, it made Azroth recoil and shrink into himself. It didn’t matter. His father’s resolve to bring out Azroth’s gift by any means possible was unparalleled. Today, that meant hot pokers applied to Azroth’s arms, leaving blisters along the sensitive inner skin of the boy’s forearms.

Imogen met him halfway and placed a comforting arm around his shoulders as she led Azroth inside, his eyes too water-filled to see.

Hesbron, Imogen’s oldest son, followed them for a few steps before Cerilda, his younger sister, tripped him with a giggle and he tore after her again.

Imogen led Azroth to a low couch inside the cool stone home and called for one of her servants to fetch a basin with cool water while she gathered herbs and a soothing salve. Azroth sat on the couch, wiping his eyes on his tunic’s fine, sable fabric.

“Hold out your arms, Ross,” Imogen said as she entered the room again.

As his governess, Imogen had tried for weeks to find a nickname that fit him, claiming “Azroth” sounded too sharp and formal to use all the time. She called him “Roth” a few times but said it always tasted funny on her tongue.

“It sounds like I’m trying to say ‘Ross’ around a mouth full of cotton,” she’d said. Then she smiled. “Ross. I like that name very much,” and had called him by it ever since.

Gerta, Imogen’s servant, set a bowl of cool water with a rag on the floor. Then the older woman left to round up the children playing tag in the yard. Dinner was nearly ready.

Imogen took the rag and dipped it in the water before gently applying it to Azroth’s arms. He flinched but did not pull away. No matter what his father did, Imogen could always make it better.

“What was it today?” she asked as she dabbed the cloth around the red, puckered skin.

“He…” Azroth hiccuped back a sob. “He wanted me to… create a heat trail.”

Imogen looked at him, confused. “You already know how to do that. You and Wesley have practiced it for weeks.”

“Why haven’t they moved on to something else? Are they training you to become a bloodhound?”

Azroth hung his head, willing himself not to cry anymore that day.

“Oh, Ross.” Imogen sighed. “If you would show him your abilities before he resorted to things like this, it wouldn’t be so bad for you.”

“I know,” he whispered. “But when Father yells at me, I can’t feel the fire. All I feel is fear, and it steals the heat from my hands like an icy wind.”

Azroth’s voice cracked and he could feel his composure crumbling.

Imogen set the rag down and smeared some of the salve over the burn marks on his arm.

“Wesley’s spoken to different senators all month searching for any way we can get you from your father, but no law exists to help us. Besides that, the other senators are too afraid to defy the king openly.”

Imogen didn’t look up as she placed the fresh herbs into the salve and wrapped clean linen around Azroth’s arms. He sagged as the pain lessened. It would be at least two weeks before the blisters deflated, and he could use his arms normally again. But through Imogen’s care, Azroth was confident the blisters would heal quicker than normal.

His old governess pushed back her red hair from her face and sat down next to Azroth on the couch. With her arms around his small shoulders, Imogen held him the way he wished his mother could have. But, Gwenivier, and Azroth’s baby sister died during the girl’s birth, leaving Azroth and Zared in the incapable hands of their father.

Red sparks filled Azroth’s hands as Imogen held him close. Where fear and anger fueled his father and brother’s fire gifts, kindness and love ignited Azroth. Neither of which he received at his father’s hand.

“Why don’t you show me how you make a heat trail,” Imogen said, planting a kiss on Ross’s black hair and wiping away the last of his tears.

Keeping hold of his feelings for Imogen and her family, Azroth rubbed his palms together, willing the fire to dance on his skin. He loved the feeling of warmth they provided. He allowed the flames to trail along the tops of his fingers, flicking a little ball of light into the air with his middle finger and catching it in his palm.

“You’re showing off now,” Imogen said, smiling.

Azroth glanced at Imogen with a smirk. He couldn’t resist showing off for her.

Rubbing his hands together again, Azroth blew slowly, and sparks left his hands. A glowing orange trail alighted on the stones where Imogen had kneeled before him, highlighting her footsteps leading in and out of the adjacent hallway. Each spot her foot had touched lit up like a glowing ember, showing the direction her shoe had pointed.

“I say, that’s even better than the last time you and I practiced,” a voice from the doorway said.

Imogen and Azroth looked up to see Imogen’s husband, Wesley Galbraith, silhouetted in the fading sunlight wearing his white and purple senator’s robes.

“Wesley, you’re home early,” Imogen said, rising from the couch.

She wrapped her arms around the man who’d stolen her away from Azroth. Wesley chuckled and returned the affection, whispering something in his wife’s ear.

It had taken Azroth an entire year to forgive Imogen for leaving him alone with only his father and brother. The next governess chosen to be his companion was old and strict, showing none of the kindness Imogen had. After Azroth was eight, he refused to have another governess. So long as he took care of himself and stayed up on his lessons, his father didn’t protest, claiming his son was finally learning to grow up.

Every day for the next four years, Azroth trekked to Imogen’s villa, and stayed until either Wesley or one of the servants took him home.

Azroth continued producing heat trails as Imogen and Wesley whispered. He caught snippets of “it’s time” and “get ready.” Azroth wondered what it meant. When they spoke like this, he used to imagine that they were talking about how to adopt him. He’d much rather call Wesley his father than the one he currently had.

Blowing into his hands, Azroth made a heat trail to show which direction Wesley had entered. The orange footprints weaved into the hall, leading the way to the main doors. Wesley whispered something to Imogen that made her bring a hand to her mouth. She shot a glance at Ross before returning to her husband.

Imogen kissed Wesley, and Azroth looked away, out of respect.

“You’re sure?” she asked.

“Yes,” Wesley said, taking her by the elbows. “Pack what you can and be ready by dark.”

They must be traveling to one of the outer cities, Azroth thought.

They’d left him alone in this city on several occasions, and each instance proved to be a dark period in his young life. The thought of being alone with only Zared and his father for company caused Azroth to shudder.

“Ross, my boy, why don’t you walk with me in the almond grove? I have some news to share with you.”

Wesley waved at Azroth to follow.

He glanced at Imogen, but she only smiled and waved for him to join them.

Kissing Azroth on the cheek, Imogen left, calling their three children to come to eat dinner.

Wesley placed a hand on Azroth’s shoulder and steered him outside. The sprawling estate of the Galbraith family glittered like a green jewel in the dry, rolling countryside. Wesley’s estate boasted a large almond grove, olive trees, grapevines, cattle, and sheep. He was among the most wealthy in the land, next to the king.

Wesley’s dark wavy hair stood in stark contrast to his white and purple senator robes. He was early in his senator career, but already achieved the title of junior chairman—a high honor.

Azroth and Wesley wound through the almond grove until the villa was out of sight.

“What happened today?” Wesley asked, gesturing at Azroth’s bandaged arms.

Azroth couldn’t help glancing around himself. Imogen would scold him if she found out he’d lied to her again.

In halting detail, Azroth related the torment he’d undergone that afternoon. Of how his father coerced him into using his gift against a thief caught in the act of robbing a home.

“They wanted me to take the man’s memories if he didn’t cooperate, and I refused,” Azroth said, holding up his arms. “So they did this to me.”

Wesley gave him a sad smile. “This wasn’t the story you told Imogen, was it?”

“No,” Azroth said heavily. “I didn’t want to make her worry.”

Wesley leaned against the trunk of an almond tree and studied Azroth with a stern expression.

Azroth’s small heart quaked beneath the fierce gaze. Was Wesley mad Azroth had lied to Imogen? He thought he was protecting her from the truth.

When Azroth first met Wesley, he was afraid the man would treat Imogen the way Nero treated him. After they married, Azroth sneaked onto their estate, watching Imogen from the hedgerow, ensuring she was all right. Each time, he waited for Wesley to strike or belittle her, but Azroth never saw this. Instead, he saw Wesley take her for strolls around his estate in the evenings when he returned home from work, or sit and talk with her as she painted in the gardens.

The man doted on her, showing her every kindness. It shocked Imogen and Wesley to find Azroth sitting inside the hedgerow one day after a cat wandered by and flicked the end of its furry tail beneath his nose, causing him to sneeze. Since then, they’d invited Azroth to come every day he could. When his tutors fell short in their instruction, Wesley quickly picked up the slack. He taught Azroth how to harness his gift of fire and showed him things Azroth’s tutors likely didn’t even know.

“Why did they want you to take his memories?” Wesley questioned.

Azroth shuddered. “They claimed he was part of a secret group trying to bring down the king.”

Wesley shifted his feet and folded his arms. “It sounds like the king is growing paranoid. You oppress people for too long, and you risk falling prey to imaginary assassination attempts.”

“I think he’s worried about something. After I refused to take the man’s memories, Zared stepped forward and performed the task.”

“I bet that didn’t end well.”

Azroth shuddered. “It’s not something I want to witness again.”

Wesley stood straight. “Let’s keep walking,” he said with another glance around.

“Is everything alright?” Azroth asked.

“Fine.” Wesley scanned the trees. “I want to show you something.”

“What’s that?” Azroth asked, eager to shake the memories of that day.

The boy loved it when Wesley could teach him something new. He once asked the senator how he could do so much with his fire gift. Wesley explained that the fire gift was fickle. One could only perform certain acts when it was fueled by love, compared to when someone ignited it through hate or fear. Despite what his father may say, Wesley’s gift of fire was more substantial than anyone Azroth had met.

“Do you know how to make a fire compass?” Wesley asked.

“I’ve never even heard of it. How do you make one?”

Wesley guided Azroth to an open spot in the orchard. The young man pulled his dagger from his belt, and flames shot down his arm. The blade became a torch and Wesley crouched down. Drawing in the dirt with the blade’s tip, Wesley made a flaming compass about the size of a plate.

“If you’re ever lost, you can use this compass to point you in the direction you need to go,” Wesley explained.

Azroth watched in admiration.

Wesley blew gently on the flames, and an arrow of red light shot out of the circle, pointing northeast.

“What’s it pointing to?” Azroth asked. “Is that where you and Imogen are going?”


Azroth dropped his eyes. The northern towns were far away. The pair would be gone for several weeks. What would he do without them?

“We want you to come with us, Ross,” Wesley said, looking up at him.

Azroth cocked his head to the side. “You want me to travel to the northern towns with you?”

Wesley flicked another glance around the grove, then took a step closer. “We’re leaving Ballitus, Ross, and we want you to come with us,” he said in a low voice.

Azroth’s eyebrows raised in surprise. “You’re leaving Ballitus? Where are you going?”


“Isn’t that where demonic wolves and rock monsters live?” Ross asked with a shudder.

“And freedom.”

Azroth’s mouth hung open as he stared between the smoldering compass and Wesley’s deadly serious face.

“Imogen and I want you to become part of our family, but things are stirring in Ballitus that could prevent us from making it a reality. That’s why I want you to leave with Imogen and the children tonight.” Wesley’s eyes scanned the grove for the fourth time, and Azroth wondered what he was looking for.

“But no one leaves Ballitus unless you’re a soldier,” Azroth said. “There are many dangerous creatures in the north. That’s why we have to protect the borders.”

Wesley gave him a knowing look. “Did Nero tell you that?”

An uncomfortable pit was widening in Azroth’s stomach. His father had lied to him about other things. Why not this?

“Yes,” Azroth admitted.

Wesley gave a derisive snort. “If those are the lies he’s been spreading to the military, no wonder the young men are so eager to stamp out this supposed threat.”

Azroth didn’t know what to say. His fourteen-year-old brother, Zared, spoke nonstop of how he planned to join the soldiers when he turned seventeen and rid their borders of the ravenous wolves and the barbarians who trained them in the north.

“Ross, do you remember when I left on that trip a few months ago?” Wesley asked.

Azroth nodded. “You went to the northern towns on the border, right?”

“Correct. I was there to bring a report back to conditions and whether the senate should send reinforcements and extra provisions. When I crossed the black waste and came upon the military camps, I saw something I haven’t seen before.”

“What was it?” The boy was hanging off Wesley’s every word.

“Sprawling forests and mountains as tall as the sky. The land flowed with green hills and abundant wildlife. It’s not the dry land we know here in the south, but a lush, fertile landscape full of opportunities. That night, I snuck around the military lines and crossed the border.”

Azroth gasped. “How did you get by them? What did you find? Did you see rock monsters?”

Wesley chuckled at the barrage of questions. “I found good people who tried to live in peace. Their capital city has a library so large that it houses every book in the kingdom. I traveled many days among them, and even had an audience with their king.”

“What was he like and what did you say to him? Did he know who you were?” Azroth asked with a shudder. If that king was anything like the king of Ballitus, he wanted to be as far away from him as possible.

“No, I didn’t reveal my true character. I pretended to be a peasant looking for work and in Tellidus, on a certain day each month for two hours, the king would grant an audience with any who desired to come to Solomon.” Wesley smiled as he relived his memory. “I found him to be just and fair in his rulings.”

The senator paused and Azroth saw emotion gather on the older man’s face that he didn’t understand.

“They have none of the brutal games our great country boasts of to entertain the mobs, distracting them from the crimes committed by those in power.”

Wesley took hold of Azroth’s shoulders and kneeled before him.

“Will you leave with Imogen tonight? Will you become part of our family?” A fierce light shone in the man’s eye.

Azroth couldn’t stop the tears from filling up his vision. After the couple had welcomed him into their lives these past seven years, his heart had yearned for nothing else.

“All I’ve ever wanted was to be part of your family. I don’t want to become a tool used to torture others,” Azroth said.

The boy squeezed Wesley so tight it was a wonder he didn’t snap the man in two.

“I will make you proud of me,” Azroth said.

Wesley pulled away enough to look into the boy’s face.

“I’m already proud of you,”

“You’re truly going to adopt me?” Azroth couldn’t believe that he would get to leave this place, never to be separated from Wesley and Imogen again.

“You will be my son, Ross Galbraith, and no one will ever hurt or use you again. You’ll finally have the home that you should have now.”

Wesley laughed gently as Ross squeezed him again.

“Why can’t you come with us?” Azroth asked.

“I’m needed in the senate tomorrow for a crucial matter. However, I’ll meet up with you all in two days. We’ll take the long way around the Keykoch Loch and make our way into Tellidus and our new life. I’ve already had the servants prepare a trunk full of clothes and other things you may need so that you won’t have to leave for anything.”

Azroth let Wesley go and wiped his eyes.

Wesley snapped his middle finger and thumb, igniting his fire compass again.

“Now, I want to ensure you know how to create this compass. Imogen will need your help to keep on the right path and care for the little ones. You’re their big brother, after all.” Wesley swallowed. “Things are happening tomorrow morning that I must stay for, but then, you will officially become my son.”

Azroth looked up sharply. “What do you mean? Did you finally find a law that would help you get me away from my father?”

Wesley gave him a measured stare. “Can I trust you to keep a secret?”

Azroth nodded eagerly. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for Wesley and Imogen, especially if it meant they’d take him with them when they fled Ballitus.

Wesley opened his mouth to speak just as a servant came running out into the orchard, waving his arms frantically.

“Master Galbraith! Master Galbraith!” the man shouted. “There are soldiers here!”

Wesley’s attention snapped to the villa, and Azroth could see eight mounted horsemen riding through the gate.

“Imogen,” Wesley said urgently. “Back to the house, now.”

The note of panic in his voice filled Azroth with a familiar fear, and he ran beside the young man, easily keeping up with Wesley’s longer strides.

When they reached the house, the lead guard dismounted and strutted up to Wesley with a horrible grin.

“Master Galbraith, you’re required at the castle immediately,” the guard said.

Azroth wrinkled his nose at the stench of malted barley that wafted toward them on the man’s breath.

“Is his Majesty holding a special court tonight?” Wesley asked. He gripped Azroth’s shoulder tightly, despite the tremor that traveled through his fingertips.

“Something like that. He’s requested that you bring the boy with you”

“Give me a moment, and I’ll fetch my things,” Wesley said in a tight voice.

The soldier placed a hand on his sword hilt. “Order one of your servants to do that. You aren’t to leave our sight.”

Azroth shot Wesley a worried look. What was this about? Did it have to do with what would happen tomorrow morning? The young man wouldn’t meet his eye.

“Wesley dear, what’s this about?” came Imogen’s worried voice from the courtyard.

She rushed forward and took Wesley’s arm, giving the soldier a fearful look. The soldier, however, rushed forward and shoved Imogen to the ground. Wesley immediately put up a protective wall of fire that encircled him, Imogen, and Azroth.

“Do not touch my wife again,” Wesley warned as he helped Imogen to her feet.

The guard leered across the blaze. “I can do as I please.” He made for Imogen again, pushing through the fiery ring.

The heat in Azroth’s hands flared out, and he doubled Wesley’s barrier, sending the guard sprawling backward. A snarl issued from the flames. The soldiers’ horses reared as the bristled head of a dragon emerged from the fire, snapping at the soldier who’d pushed Imogen.

The man scrambled away, fear making his unkempt mustache twitch.

“When did you learn dragon fire, boy?” the soldier asked, his voice cracking. “Last I’d heard, you couldn’t hardly get the fire to leave your fingertips.”

“Ross, be careful,” Imogen said.

Both Imogen and Wesley placed a hand on his shoulders. Their love for him was the only thing that could have reined in his gift. Many soldiers outside his protective ring had administered his punishments, and he itched to make them feel the same pain they’d given him.

I’d have no problem taking these soldiers’ entire memories,  turning them into limp flesh, Azroth thought savagely.

The sound of horse hooves on the dirt lane echoed behind them. A servant had Wesley’s horse saddled and ready to go.

Wesley kissed Imogen. “Tell the children good night for me,” he whispered as they broke apart.

Imogen’s stricken expression watched them as Wesley helped Azroth into the saddle so he could climb on behind.

Before the senator could mount up, the lead soldier strode forward and clapped a pair of manacles on Wesley’s wrists.

“Senator Wesley Galbraith,” the man said. His barley breath cut through the night. “You are now under arrest for conspiracy to murder the King of Ballitus.”

Look for Chapter 2 next week.

Thank you for reading the first chapter in “The Fire Drake.” This novella will be released one chapter each week until its conclusion. If you want to know when the next chapter is released, please subscribe to this blog. The story will also be released on the Vocal platform and can be viewed here.

P.S. If you love anything in this story, please comment below with your favorite parts.

Vanessa Thurgood
Vanessa Thurgood

Writer of epic fantasy tales spun with action, adventure, slow burn romances, and flawed human beings. All wrapped up in books that are family friendly. You can find more of my stories on Amazon and Vocal.

Published by Vanessa Thurgood

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