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Fire and Ice
The rain fell like ice in the biting wind, tossing her hair like a pale blonde curtain across her face, temporarily shielding her eyes from view. Eeach minute she was illuminated in a flash of lightning that tore the sky in two, and, although it surrounded her like a cage, did not strike her directly. Her gown was the color of the clouds themselves, like individual wisps of the storm, tumbling in the wind. Her posture was stiff, expression hard, her mind as sharp as a whip laced with morning frost. Although she appeared to be waiting for something, or someone, her murky gray eyes saw all - for she was a Spectra, a master of sight, able to watch the farthest reaches, immortal until she fell in battle, watching the past to act upon the present.
Above her, the silhouette of a bird circled the mountaintop, a shadow seen through the smoky clouds reflecting in the Spectra’s eyes, that seemed to be made of glass, each layer obscuring those above it. And like glass it shattered in one moment: from the the peace like a taut rope, holding the storm together and controlling its force, to the destruction unleashed as its full power mixed with the fire of the Spectra’s long-standing rival.
Now two figures, motionless on the mountaintop, faced each other in a battle of will, each too obstinate to turn away from the other’s gaze. The flaming gold of the queen’s passionate glare was hard and resolute, restrained only by the argent barrier presented by the spectra, memories of a thousand years guarding the very mountain that she stood upon on that fateful night dancing across her piercing silver eyes.
Two snakes, each the same striking shade of ebony as her dress, coiled and spiraled in a knot around the queen’s head and arms, their scales catching the light, forming a labyrinthine pattern that coiled around her body. The bird that traced circles in the sky swooped down and perched on the spectra’s shoulder, just as the queen hissed to her, “It is not you I want. Turn over the source of your power, and your life will be spared.”
The wisdom of the spectra’s expression turned to anger, another streak of lightning leaping to join the storm. “I will do no such thing. I know what you want, Adderine, and I am here to tell you that you cannot get it. You have no choice but to turn over your soul and remain human.”
“And you would know human, wouldn’t you, Myrai?” The queen fiddled with a strand of her deep red hair. “Please, do not bother to tell me that immortality is a burden.” She focused her gaze on the bird. “For it is, though only when temporary.”
The spectra’s face hardened, a visage marked by a thousand years of living, as she spoke. “Then I am afraid that I must protect my land from your ambitions. You will travel no further as of this day.” She lifted her chin, and instead of splitting and branching off as it touched the spectra’s skin, this jagged streak of lightning fell into her hand, and the great bird, the thunderbird, stretched its wings into an arc of power, a sonic boom echoing throughout the mountains as he did so.
The queen drew her sword, as did the spectra, each blade with a wondrous past in legend and lore. The great Serpenfire, the sword of Angora’s first tyrant, fitting into place in the hands of its last, sparked with its old enemy Sorcerslayer, the sword created by the West Archaia range itself, the protector of the mountains and the very image of the storm.
Raindrops sizzled and turned to mist as they touched the steel blades, melding with the clouds that hung low over the peak like a curtain that hid the dueling figures as they fought. The ring of fire drew ever closer, and the queen’s eyes lit with the flames lapping hungrily at thin air. But with a clang and ring that could be heard for miles around, Serpenfire slipped from the hands of its master, and flew over the cliffside, lodging itself in the hard mountain earth many feet below.
The crooked smile the played across the spectra’s lips lasted for no more than a second, for that was when the queen struck her final blow: a blade of pure fire molded from the flames and ashes that engulfed the oxygen at such elevations and left the air thick with smog slashed at the thunderbird, and the blazing sword met its target.
The spectra stilled in a heartbeat; the world seemed to move in slow motion to her, too slow to stop the queen from casting herself into the flames and escaping the wrath of a griever. She opened a silver locket hanging around her neck on chain, capturing the bird’s spirit as it left the body, and the locket morphed and swirled until it was the shape of a great bird with its wings outstretched. “May your spirit live forever, Tempestus,” the spectra murmured, now fallen to her knees over the limp mass of feathers.
She stood to her full height once more and looked over the cliff, where Serpenfire was nowhere to be seen. Her words were rocked with anguish, though wisdom still glimmered in her voice. “Fire and ice may be foes forever, but battle is mortal, and that will never change. We have yet to embed in our final struggle, but until then...” She looked pointedly to the sky, where vanished in a sudden flash of lightning, the final strike of the clouds. All that was left of her on the rocky summit was the likeness of her eyes, implanted for eternity in the memory of old mountain, and in her last statement to the queen, although the queen could not hear it spoken. “That was simply the calm before the storm. The true tempest has yet to come.”