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The heart of the Phoenix
The whole tribe was gathered around the shaman’s fire as the night sky sparkled over head and I perched on a tree branch overhead. I was the outcast in the tribe, the orphan, so they didn’t notice my absence below and I had the best view. “Phoenix, our great protector, how can we please you?” The shaman asked as he stared into the fire and I glanced back at the smoking volcano behind us. Our God, Phoenix, controlled the fiery stack and we had angered him. My attention returned to the fire when a breeze stirred by my cheek and the embers began to glow a fierce red. A bird shot out of the center with wings of scarlet and he hovered over the dying flames. “Send three girls to the volcano, a trail will appear for them and one will be chosen; fail to do so will result in a high price.” The bird declared as I watched him in fascination and for a split second, his glacier blue eyes met mine. The fire roared to life as the phoenix burned to ashes and the crowd was silent. “Tonight think of who we will send, but remember, they might not come back.” Our chief called out as several of the girls began to bicker over who is going and someone silenced them. Not wanting to be apart of their sacrifices, I crept out of the tree and hurried down to the moonlit pool.
The forest was dark as I slipped into the warm water of the volcanic pool and the stars glittered madly in the sky. My hair floated on the surface like a deep ink spill and my skin glowed even paler in the moonlight. It was here that I actually was at peace with the world and I floated on the water’s surface. “Raven.” A voice whispered in my ear and the air warmed around me. “What do you want?” I asked softly as my voice broke in fear and a beautiful boy materialized beside me. “You must be one of the three; I must see if you are brave enough.” He murmured as he lightly caressed my cheek and my face warmed to his touch. He was filled with so much kindness and I was drawn to him. “I will make sure I am.” I promised as he chuckled and he lightly kissed my forehead before vanishing. My heart beat wildly in my chest as I smiled at the air and I heard a faint chuckle before I started back for home.
“Iris, Bree, and Stella will be the three girls!” the chief informed as I saw his own daughter, Iris, look down and her lover looked equally pained. “Wait, let me go instead of Iris, she’ll be missed here and I won’t.” I called as everyone looked at me and they all stared as if they had never seen me before. “Is this okay with you, daughter?” he asked as she gave me a curious gaze and I winked. “Yes, I thank-you, Raven, for being kind when no one else has ever been to you.” Iris smiled as she stepped away from the group and I took her spot. She went to the comfort of her lover’s arms, while Stella grinned smugly at the crowd, I had taken out the competition in her eyes. “Very well, these three will protect our tribe, may you all be safe.” The chief announced as the crowd parted to make way for us and we head out on our way to the volcano. “That was a nice thing you did for Iris.” Bree murmured as she walked beside me and I realized we could have been friends along time ago. “A nicer thing for us really, the Phoenix will choose the beautiful one.” Stella smirked as she brushed her golden blonde hair from her shoulder and poor Bree shut her mouth. It was true that I wasn’t as gorgeous as either one of them, Stella was slim and blonde, while Bree was tiny with a fabulous red hair; I was merely skinny and pale. We walked in silence, not wanting to be on the receiving end of Stella’s wrath and I felt the air warm around me, he was protecting me.
“We’re at the volcano, so where’s this...” Stella started, but the ground shifted and a huge cavern appeared before us. “I am leaving you now, prove to me your bravery, just call for me and I will come.” He breathed in my ear and none of the others seemed to notice. I felt the slightest touch on my cheek and then the air cooled. Stella could be rude all she wanted, but I knew that I had already been chosen and that gave me strength. We followed Stella into the cave, she had the torch, and we jumped when the entrance sealed shut behind us. “I guess he doesn’t want us to leave.” Bree whispered, her voice thick with fear, and I felt sorry for her. “Don’t worry, if we really wanted to leave, he would let us.” I promised as I remember the affection in his eyes and she seemed to calm down. The cave walls were covered with different paintings and many were of a mysterious fiery bird. Part of me should have known not to trust Stella, but I wasn’t surprised when she turned on me and she tied ropes tightly around me. “What are you doing?” Bree gasped as she kept her distance and I struggled against her. “She’s a threat, now shut up.” She snapped as she finished the knot and I sat helplessly on the floor. “You’re crazy!” I snapped as she kicked me towards the edge and I heard the creek below. “She’ll drown Stella, don’t!” Bree cried as she rushed forward, but she was too late and I hit the water with a scream.
My whole body reacted to the icy cave water and when I surfaced, everything was dark, they had left me. Unable to swim being bound, the water pulled me down again and I slammed into the side of the cave. Water poured into my throat as I struggled to breathe and for the briefest second I surfaced once more. “Help me!” I shouted before I was silenced by a downward drag and I began to slip away. My body barely registered the burst of warmth around me and I was suddenly out of the water. “Breathe Raven!” His velvet voice ordered as water spilled out of my mouth and I coughed. He ran his finger over the ropes and they fell away from me. “She tried to kill me.” I whispered as he pulled me into his arms and his warmth flooded into my chilled body. “She will pay for it too.” He hissed as the torches beside him burst into flames and I placed my hand on his cheek. “Shh, don’t hurt her, I’m okay.” I pleaded as his eyes softened and he shivered. “You’re freezing.” He murmured softly as he wrapped a blanket around my shoulders and I was happy to bury my face in his chest. “It’s a good thing you’re so warm.” I teased as he chuckled and his fingers ran lightly through my hair. “I was worried about falling for a human, I’ve heard stories, and I need someone loyal, brave; I know now that you are both.” He confessed as my own shivering began to stop and I was very drowsy. “I understand, you do have a name right or is it really Phoenix?” I asked as he laughed at my words and he tilted my chin up. “Alexander is my true name, Phoenix is my last name.” He informed as I stared into those beautiful eyes and my heart raced.
“What made you decide to do all of this?” I inquired as his eyes saddened and I felt like someone stabbed a knife into my heart, I hated to see him so sullen. “I was sick of being alone, I’ve been by myself since I was first born, and then...I saw you.” He explained as I felt remorse for this cruel isolation he’s endured. “My parent’s pasted away awhile ago; I’m the outcast in my tribe, so I can sympathize with you.” I admitted as he stroked my cheek and his fingers left a trail of warmth on my delicate skin. “We’re both been isolated for so long; I remember the first time I saw you, it was awhile ago when you came to the pool and you were crying.” He murmured as I remembered that night, it was the night my tribe turned their back on me, and I blinked back a tear. “The night I became a loner.” I sighed as a distant look filled his eyes and I traveled back with him. “I wanted so bad to comfort you, but I was afraid to appear, so I just watched you; you were so beautiful it hurt me to see you in such pain.” He continued as I felt his pain as my own and I took his hand in mine. “I remember the feeling of being watched, but I never realized it until now.” I muttered as he glanced down at our hands and he seemed pleased. “I’ve waited a long time for you Raven.” He breathed as he leaned down and my grey eyes widened. His lips were extremely gentle against mine as he held me close and bliss filled my heart. “I’m yours.” I whispered as he kissed me again and I heard his heart pounding with mine. “I love you.” He grinned as he pulled away to look at me and I brushed a strand of his brown hair from his face. “I love you too, Alex.” I promised as my eyes closed in joy and he pulled me into his lap. “You need to rest, or you’re going to pass out on me.” He chuckled as I yawned and it was no use protesting. “Stay.” I murmured as exhaustion swept over me and I fell asleep with my head on his chest.
My eyes fluttered open to reveal a dimly lit cavern and it took me a moment to realize I was lying on makeshift bed; Alex’s warm arm was wrapped around me. He was still sound asleep beside me as his breath tickled my skin and his face was buried in my hair. Carefully, I twisted under his arm until I was facing him and he smelled faintly of fresh rain. Without warning he sighed softly as his eyes cracked open and he gave me a crooked smile. “I never thought I would wake without being alone.” He admitted as he stroked my cheek absentmindedly and I closed my eyes. “Me either.” I murmured as I heard him sigh and I knew our thoughts were the same. “You need to rejoin them, they are almost there and I don’t want the kind one to be harmed either.” He muttered as I curled closer to him and he kissed me lightly. “I don’t want to leave your side, but you’re right.” I frowned and there was bliss in his eyes as I twined our fingers. “I’ll be with you every step of the way, love.” He promised as he scooped me up into his arms and he carried me into another tunnel. I was about to reply with something sweet, but he set me on my feet and vanished from sight.
I took a hesitant step forward, testing my footing, and then Bree screamed. “Raven, you’re alright!” She beamed as she through her arms around me and Stella merely glared. “Of course I am.” I smiled, truly touched by her sweetness, and I noticed that we had reached the center of the volcano. Behind them, the rim was lit up and I could feel the heat rolling of the lava below. “You should have died.” Stella snarled as she examined me and then the world stood still. Bree opened her mouth to say something, when Stella hit her in the chest and she tumbled over the edge in a silent scream. “No Bree!” I shouted as I automatically rushed for her and Stella beamed as I too went over the edge. The air was thick with heat as I caught Bree around her waist and she clung to me in horror. We plummeted down for a couple more seconds and then there was unimaginable pain. Everything was a confusing mess as my mind flinched from the heat and I felt my heart breaking for Alexander. Maybe I was too delirious to realize that the burning stopped and a new cooling sensation was taking over. “Raven, you’re alright, so is your friend.” Alex whispered in my ear as he carried me in his arms and my mind told me we were on solid ground. “How...the lava...burning.” I stuttered as he stared at me in disbelief and I just shut my mouth. “I’m the son of a Phoenix, remember; anyways my love for you has changed you, the magic of the Phoenix line now runs through your veins, fire can’t harm you.” He explained as my head began to clear and I saw Bree lying on the bed.
“Is she really okay?” I asked as he set me down and I rushed to her side. “Yes, you protected her, not one burn on her, but the other one wasn’t as lucky.” He smiled as I looked up at him and I decided not to ask. “I guess she deserved it; we’ll send Bree home once she wakes.” I insisted as I through a smile over my shoulder at him and he grabbed my wrist. “For a moment there, I really thought I had lost you, until I sensed the power within you.” He murmured as he pulled me into his arms and I understood, I had thought I had lost him too. He crushed his lips to mine making my head spin and I wrapped my arms around his neck. It took me a moment to realize that he no longer felt abnormally warm to me and I savored this new closeness. “You’re my Soulmate.” I pointed out as he held my face between his hands and I saw that knowledge deep in his eyes. “Yes, I knew from the moment you dove off that ledge to save that girl.” He replied as his eyes looked over my shoulder and I heard a soft moan. “Bree, how are you feeling?” I questioned as I hurried to her side and her eyes were wide as she glanced at Alexander. “I knew he’d choose you, so did Stella; I’m glad he did.” She admitted as she ignored my worried tone and I sighed in relief. “It didn’t hurt that you could sense me too, thank-you for not letting Stella know that.” He pressed as I gasped and she shrugged her shoulders. “I was protecting Raven.” She admitted as my heart swelled and I knew Bree was going to be my friend. “I know, you have my gratitude.” He beamed as he handed her a necklace with a charm that flickered like a flame and she gave him a confused gaze. “What is it?” She asked as I too gazed at him. “It will protect you from fire and it will only work for you.” He explained as he took my hand, it was time to send her home, and she took mine.
Several people looked up from their work when the three of us suddenly appeared where the fire had been moments before. “You have given me the greatest gift; never again will your volcano erupt.” Alex called as my people bowed to him and Bree stepped away from us. A low murmur rippled through the crowd as they were surprised by his choice and he took my hand. “Let’s go home.” I suggested as he leaned down to kiss me and the fire erupted around us.
“These violent delights have violent ends, which in their triumph die like powder and fire, in which they kiss, consume.”