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The land is dark. The air is heavy with palpable energy. Something is about to happen.
Kiphy and Ime stand at the top of a dormant volcano. The mountains where Ime trained appear smaller in the distance. The land stretching between, though dark, has plants growing plentifully.
The volcano reminds Ime of his home and the rich soil a similar volcano provided his people.
“Why are we here? What’s the third lesson?” Ime asks.
“Come,” Kiphy says, leading the way down into the crater. “We’ve honed your body. We’ve honed your mind. You must’ve felt the difference when you used your magic in the darkness.”
“I have a stronger connection. I thought it would be weaker from lack of use, but I felt something inside I’ve never felt before when I used my magic.”
“You felt the core of your magic. Tell me, what did it feel like when you found the strength to fight back the darkness?”
“A strange warmth I’ve never felt before.”
Walking towards the center of the crater, Kiphy nods his head. “Your fire magic is still inside you. It was and can never be taken away.”
“You said my fire source was taken. But if I’m able to tap into the main source of my magic I could gain stronger fire.”
“What did it feel like when Klaeon stole your magic?”
“My strength was pulled from me, preventing me from fighting against him. My fire was ripped from inside me like a knife cutting into flesh. My other magic tried to stop it, but something kept it back.”
Kiphy stops and face Ime, his expression a mixture of grim and serious. “I haven’t told you everything, Ime. You remember what I told you about Blood Magic?”
“It chooses who will wield it. One who can’t use magic,” Ime answers.
“It chooses, because it’s a living magic.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Blood Magic is alive. However, without a host it’s nothing more than wind through the trees. When it finds a host it grants the being the gift of magic, but at a cost. The living magic becomes one with the host, feeding on his or her life force. Normally this would kill the host quickly.” Kiphy leans down and builds a small fire.
“You’ve spoken with Wynsil of Eraunel, I saw several of his men with your group. I’m sure he explained the origins of Klaeon. The village Klaeon came from has learned how to communicate with Blood Magic and in so doing, learned how to keep themselves alive. Each Magic is different, but I’m guessing in order to satisfy the power inside of him, Klaeon must feed the Blood Magic the sources of others.”
Ime’s mind races and his hands clench into fists. “Magic that eats magic? Then how can Klaeon use my fire? How could he give it to Teron?”
“Like I said, each Blood Magic is different, unique. As a gift to Klaeon for feeding it, the Blood Magic must give him some back. The power he’s shown is similar to my own. Manipulation, only unlike me, he’s limited to magic he’s consumed. But the magic he produces will never be as strong as the original.” Satisfied with the small flames of his fire, Kiphy stands.
“I remember the fire Teron used. It felt like my fire, but at the same time not.”
Stepping closer to Ime, Kiphy crosses his arms. “Your fire magic. Are you ready to get it back?”
Ime’s body tenses and he nods his head.
“Good. In order to get it back, you must prove to fire you are worthy and won’t lose it again.”
Raising his hand over the fire, Kiphy collects the flames. He concentrates and the flames grow larger and hotter. Kiphy stomps his foot on the earth and a hole opens beneath him. Throwing his hands down, the fire disappears down the hole, deep into the earth at their feet.
Confused, Ime is about to speak when the ground shakes violently. Ime braces himself as the earth calms, but he can feel another violent shock coming.
Kiphy places a hand on Ime’s shoulder and meets his eyes. A strong emotion is present in the old man’s eyes. “Prove your worth, Ime.” Leaping quickly out of the crater, Kiphy stands at the mouth of the volcano and watches with his arms crossed.
The ground shakes again, growing in intensity. Ime stretches his magic into the earth, feeling the movement of rock…and magma. A sudden violent pulse shoots through the crater and cracks form around Ime. He’s thrown off his feet and lands on the still smoldering ashes of Kiphy’s fire. He rolls off as another jerk knocks him flat onto his stomach.
He can feel the earth screaming. The volcano is coming back to life.
Vents open, releasing steam, which whistles through the air. Bulges in the surface precede small eruptions of molten rock. The shifting of the earth is tearing the ground beneath Ime apart.
Climbing to his feet, Ime dodges falling molten rock, but new vents appear all around him. Lava explodes behind him and he feels his clothes and the hairs on his arms and legs singe.
The lava burns him. The realization frightens him.
A larger explosion sends rock into the sky, opening a hole at the center of the crater. Ime uses his earth magic to create a cover over him. Lava and cooled rock slam into him from above and the lava melts through his rock shield. He notices it almost too late and narrowly avoids injury.
The ground beneath him splits further and magma rises, pushing its way through the cracks. The solid earth melts away, leaving a few slabs of rock floating on the liquid fire.
Ime uses his air magic to keep the slab of rock beneath him cool. It takes most of his focus in order to prevent the ground beneath him from melting.
The heat surrounding him is intense and what little immunization from heat he has is easily being overpowered by the power of the volcano. The slabs of rock around him move too far for him to risk jumping to try to escape. He’s secluded on the tiny island beneath him.
Another violent shake from deep within the earth sends a tremor through his body. He feels the earth releasing a powerful surge of energy. Lava erupts into the air around him, enclosing Ime in a giant dome. It stretches high above him before descending to the earth and to Ime.
The heat is suffocating and Ime prepares for death. But a strange feeling fills him, the same feeling that filled him in the dark cavern four days ago during the second lesson. It fills his body and he stares up at the fire racing towards him.
He is unafraid of the fire. He remembers the feeling when he used fire, his fire, for the first time. At the time it had been an uncontrollable monster threatening to eat him alive until he began to understand how the fire danced.
And he loved how he could make fire dance. He wished he could feel it once more.
* * *
Intense eyes bore into the cooling rock. Kiphy squeezes his crossed arms tightly with his hands. His lip is a thin line, and his forehead is furrowed deeply.
“It was too soon.”
Even as he speaks the words, Kiphy feels a part of him not believing it. A part of him whispers, give him time. But how long can one wait for someone buried beneath molten rock? Even Magic users need to breathe…and Ime wasn’t impervious to being crushed.
A shudder shoots through the earth. The volcano is falling back asleep. And Ime is nowhere to be seen.
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