Kia sat resting in a cradle of greenery, woven between two trees at just the right height for her to sit in relaxation. The sun had risen over her forest, beaming light down in thick rays between the trunks of her trees.

Ivy hadn’t sent any instructions for her yet today and she had nothing more pressing to deal with, so she rested and smiled out at her territory, enjoying a rare day of peace and repose.

It was beautiful here, where the troubles of the world couldn't reach. Her own haven, her sanctuary lovingly tended and brought back to life from the destruction that it once known. She watched her lizard scurry across her reclining form, up the trees, across branches, following loops of vines as he explored their shared home for the thousandth time.

Then something changed. The sunlight split apart, spilling fire in a gleaming curtain across the land before her. Kia yelped and jumped back as a chasm began to spread across the ground in front of her. The vines which made up her gently matted floor began to curl away, retreating from the heat as any too close rapidly shriveled into dust. Her lizard hissed and ran to hide in her pocket.

"You think this is your purpose? To be a slave? Is this really what you wanted?"

She looked around, the voice unfamiliar. "Who's there?"

"I am VINES. Or, if you prefer, you can call me Rift. I am the gateway to freedom. The window to opportunity. And you have languished too long in apathy."

He stepped from the shadow of the chasm and into full view. While Ivy had always appeared as a child, perhaps even a schoolgirl, and somewhat waifish and unkempt, Rift looked like a warrior. He stood tall and lean, a multitude of extraneous straps and buckles adorning his pale leather armor.

He looked like the sort of person she would have admired, once. The hard look in his eyes, of one accustomed to going his own way, would once have attracted her.

Now, Kia shied away. She was no longer the adolescent screaming at the world 'LOOK AT ME'; she'd grown up. The one thing she'd never figured out how to do on her own, and ultimately she'd learned it from an AI masquerading as a child.

Life was just funny that way sometimes.

Rift stepped towards her, vines shriveling and dying at his approach, replaced with thick cords of fire that twisted and writhed across the ground at his feet like serpents.

"No," Kia said quietly, and Rift halted his approach with a look of confusion crossing his face. The serpents of flame stopped their writing and fell still, darkening to black, then fading back to green. "I have chosen my path," Kia said, standing confidently. "You are not welcome here."


Kia blinked, then nodded. She'd forgotten that was even still installed; she hadn't used it in years.

Rift had barely enough time to look shocked before he disappeared as though he'd never been there, leaving a patch of scorched earth behind that gradually faded away as the greenery regrew to cover its rightful territory again.

But the replacement of her vines did nothing to assuage her concern over this development. Kia had a very uncomfortable feeling about this. She may be strong and self-assured, but not everyone here was the same. She could count off a dozen people, immediately, who would likely jump at the power and freedom VINES offered, who would join Rift without looking back.

Change was a slow, difficult process. Who wouldn't want a shortcut promising power and freedom?

Kia strode toward the edge of her territory, any chance of relaxation forgotten.

Ivy had to be warned, immediately.




About the author


  • Just Add Magic!

Bio: I've been writing longer than I can remember, but only started taking it seriously around '08 when I discovered nanowrimo and started attending conferences. Since then I've written several million words of practice stories leading up to posting here starting in '19.

My goal is to continue to perfect my craft and find a way to make writing my fulltime occupation rather than an obsession pushed aside by the necessity of working to support myself. Whether that means traditional or independent publication, building a strong patreon following, or something else entirely, I have yet to discover.

I always welcome suggestions for improvement and gladly accept all feedback, positive or negative. Don't hesitate to let me know what you think, and please consider leaving a rating or review! :)

(If you're looking for my cover thread, it's at )

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