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The Sacrifice

Kevin J. Anderson has published 120 books, more than fifty of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes, as well as a unique steampunk fantasy novel, Clockwork Angels, which is based on the new concept album by legendary rock group Rush. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series, the Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. Visit Kevin J. Anderson at his website, wordfire.com.
The foul-smelling mist exhaled from the cave opening, a swirl of brimstone and smoke. A soft reptilian growl echoed, low and steady. The dragon was still sleeping, but when he awakened, he would be hungry.
The young woman, the virgin sacrifice, struggled against the ropes that bound her to the stake. Her wrists were already raw, but she couldn't get away. She waited for the monster to emerge, to devour her.
The charred bones strewn about the lair--crushed skulls, cracked femurs drained of marrow, curved rib cages--gave evidence of previous meals that had not satisfied the beast.
She tried to be strong, straining and gasping against the bonds, but she didn't dare twist too hard, because that might make her wrists bleed, and blood would certainly draw the dragon. A tear stole aimlessly down her cheek, but she forced herself not to whimper. The fear, too, would bring him out.
Months ago, the dragon had awakened from its ancient slumber and terrorized the countryside. With broad razor wings, it swooped down on the shepherds' flocks, roasting sheep and leaving charred fields. It attacked the villages next, setting thatched roofs on fire, burning cottages to the ground, feasting on any victims it could seize.
When the priests consulted their holy texts, and knew there could be only one solution to appease the dragon. A virgin sacrifice, a pure young woman offered up to keep the beast at bay. And the townspeople, her own people, had turned on her. They chose her because she was the least important; an orphan with no one to speak on her behalf. Though she was pretty, kind, and well loved, she had no dowry and was not likely to find a husband anyway. She had no say in the matter.
Now she was tied to the stake before the lair, waiting, doomed, sure the dragon would soon emerge, a nightmare of scales and fangs and deadly fire. And it would see her there, a sacrifice.
But all she could think of was the brave knight and his kisses, his reassurances... how he had held her the night before. It was their secret. None of the villagers suspected.
But she wondered if the dragon would know....
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
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