Even though creating a storm was my idea, standing on the beach now, I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s bad enough that Andrei, Ceph, Nik, Cliff, and Selene are watching, but there’s also a crowd of mages from the guild gathered in the field. They seem to follow me around lately since I started using the Danger Room.
I look at Eli, who graciously volunteered to help out. “Have you ever done something like this?”
“Nope,” he shakes his head.
Caroline hugs herself, anxious. “Why do they have to be here?”
I shrug. “Guardians are mythical. I guess that makes us sort of like celebrities. Though I’m not sure how much they know about all of us…” I frown, thinking about it. They really wouldn’t know about the others, would they? “I can’t seem to get rid of them.”
“It comes with the territory,” Eli nods, and smiles. “Just ignore them and focus on the water, okay?”
“Easy for you to say, water is everywhere,” Caroline grumbles, turning to face the ocean.
“Exactly,” Eli laughs. “Should be no problem. Now, as for us… You ready, Sis?”
I glance back at the others. They’re a good fifteen feet back, but I wonder if that will be enough. Andrei nods with a wink. I can’t believe how much I missed that tiny gesture. With a flutter in my chest, I close my eyes. I hold my arms in front of me, palms up to the sky.
I focus on the air around me. I feel the chill on my skin, though it doesn’t penetrate. I’ve recovered enough from the infection that the cold no longer bothers me. Alright, fire, let’s see what you’ve got. Show me you’re more than destruction.
The flames leap to my fingertips, always ready for action. Several voices gasp. I peek at my hands and growl to myself. Come on, you’re more than a one trick pony. Let’s heat this place up.
It hesitates, sinking slowly into my palms. I can almost feel it… thinking. It’s bizarre to conceive.
In a lot of ways, that’s terrifying. Like a hungry bear or a wolf, that’s figured out how to pick a lock. I’m conflicted; both amazed and horrified.
The air above my arms warps, like a mirage. The chill disappears. Good, but we need more. A lot more, I think as I close my eyes again. I give the fire free reign to use all of my energy. I have no idea how much it’ll take for this to work, but at least there’s two of us.
The air grows dense. It gets harder to breathe, and my concentration wavers. It’s then that I hear the first rumble in the distance. Relief washes over me, but I catch myself. We can’t stop now. Come on, we can do better.
Something hits my cheek. I flinch, my eyes snapping open. As my eyes focus, I notice a single umbrella in the crowd, with a smug Kaede standing beneath it. The faces vary in shades of awe, except Ceph, who nods with approval. Andrei’s gaze is fixed on the dark clouds, grinning with teeth bared.
“Go, Kaitlyn! Go, Caroline! You can do it!” a familiar voice cheers. I recognize Cliff easily, towering above the other mages.
I turn to Caroline. Her posture is tense, head turned down and face scrunched. She looks in pain, concentrating so hard. I shake my head and take a ragged breath. Come on fire, what are you doing? I know there’s more power there.
Another drop hits my face. The flames hiss in my ear. I grit my teeth. Seriously? A little rain and you get scared? No. Not today. I push against the reluctant fire, ignoring the voice in the back of my mind.
Fire should never be forced.
Desperate times, Ambrosse.
Thunder comes louder, more frequent now. The rain starts in earnest. I can barely hear anything over the sizzling in my ear as the fire complains. I continue to push, though I know I can’t keep it up much longer.
A strange feeling comes over me. I sense danger, and I recognize it, but there’s no time. On instinct, I switch gears, releasing a wave of solid energy. Caroline lands in the water with a splash, Eli skids across the grass at the others’ feet. My heart pounds in my ears as the sky opens in a blinding light.
My body tingles like a thousand needles in my skin. I groan. The ground is wet, and there’s a ringing in my ears. My eyes flutter open with some effort. I’m so tired. I expect to see clouds or at least faces, but it’s dark. Did I go blind?
Through the ringing, I hear a whine. The darkness shifts until a glowing eye hovers over my face.
“Hey… Blue,” I cough. “When did you get here?”
Blue moves aside, letting some light in. I blink and Andrei is there, eyes wild. “Kaitlyn, oh my God! Are you ok? You scared the life out of me. I just about nearly dashed after you!” he studies me, looking for injuries probably.
“Sorry,” I manage to croak, before clearing my throat. “It happened too fast. There was no time.”
“Time is relative,” he smirks.
“For you,” I roll my eyes. “For the rest of us, we have to make do.”
“Kat! Oh, good, you’re alive!” Caroline runs across the sand, pausing when Blue looks up at her. “Oh, hey…” she smiles uncertainty. “I think we did it!” she points behind the dragon.
“You definitely did,” Nik appears over Andrei’s shoulder. “Close call, huh?” he pats Blue’s neck. “Thanks, buddy!”
Blue snorts, kinda like a horse. I laugh. It hurts, but I don’t care. We actually did it, and no one died. I just feel a little dead. I look at Nik. “Can you, uh… gather the thing? I think I’m just gonna… lay here… forever,” I mumble, still trying to catch my breath.
“Do you want me to heal you?” Andrei offers, brushing hair out of my face.
I shake my head. “It’s not that. I think I overdid it a little…” my eyes droop. It’s hard to keep them open.
“We shouldn’t lay here in the rain, you might get sick,” Andrei argues. Kaede walks up, standing in my peripheral with his umbrella.
“I don’t get sick,” I disagree stubbornly. “My body is too hot for viruses.” I frown, “But you’re right. I don’t like the rain.”
Blue whines, nudging my arm with his scaley nose. I slowly sit up. Andrei slides his arm around my shoulders, helping support me.
“You know, if you wanted, you could slow the fall of the rain in your surrounding area and prevent it from hitting you,” Ceph’s deep voice draws my attention. He stands by Kaede with Eli, both of them relatively dry. “It’s much like the time bubble you create to slow down time, but rather just affecting the rain.”
Blue huffs, a puff of smoke rising from his nostrils. I snicker. “He says, ‘what’s wrong with my wing?’”
“Nothing, it just can’t cover everyone,” Ceph states simply.
Blue grunts. I roll my eyes. “He doesn’t care about everyone,” I reach up and grab onto one of the horns on Blue’s head. He nuzzles against my stomach, pushing me up. I find my feet, but I can’t seem to keep them.
“Dragons.” Andrei coughs bitterly. Blue narrows his eye at Andrei. Andrei returns the glare.
“Shh, he didn’t mean you,” I whisper, clinging to his head with what little strength I have left.
Andrei slides his arm around my waist, prying my arms off the dragon and placing them around his neck. “Yes, I do. They can be so selfish. Don’t look at me like that. You know I’m right,” he scolds Blue.
“Are you calling me selfish?” I tease weakly. Eyelids are so heavy…
“What? No! You’re only part dragon, like a small part. It didn’t pass on to you,” Andrei winks, leaning down to place his lips on mine. The sensation breathes a small bit of life back into me, if only for a moment.
I lean my head on his shoulder, resting my eyes. “Is it time to go to bed yet?”
“It can be,” he laughs, followed by a grunt as my body gives out. The darkness creeps in, and the world fades away.
Except for the smell of smoke…
The charred bodies of my family lay at my feet, their screams ringing in my ears. I turn away, only to find them standing, blackened skin and eyes wide open. I close my eyes, but I can still see them.
“Monster!” they chant, while the baby squeals in pain. In the distance, a deep male voice laughs. I know it’s him. None of this is real. Andrei said it’s an illusion. I picture him, the sound of his voice, his smile. The screams fade away.
“He cannot save you, Niece,” the voice taunts. I ignore him. He’s wrong.
My eyes flutter open. It’s silent, the evening sun providing a dim glow. I reach across the bed, but it’s cold. I bolt upright, only to find that I’m alone.
He cannot save you…
The voice echoes in my mind. My heart pounds against my ribs, my chest burns. I can’t seem to catch my breath. Is this real? Is this another trick? How can I be sure?
The door swings open. My gaze snaps up, but it’s not him. Something warm drops onto my arm. I look down to see a tiny wet spot, and then another.
“Kaitlyn,” a female voice calls my attention. My head is spinning. Where am I? “Kaitlyn! Look at me!” my face is jerked to the right. I’m met with bright silver-blue eyes. “It’s okay. You’re safe. You’re okay,” she insists.
“Selene?” I hear myself speak.
“It will be alright,” She smiles. “I’m here. This is real.”
Her hands are warm on my cheeks. My eyelids are heavy. The pounding in my ears ebbs. Safe. It’s safe.
“Shh, rest,” I feel her warmth wrap around me, like a blanket. It’s nice…
She smells like flowers.
By Krystyna Yates