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Kia stepped back, leaving an image of light in her place. For a moment, she stood nearly doubled over, pushing life energy through her perforated body. Her healing spells couldn’t keep up with the sheer destructive onslaught Harolski could bring to bear against her. She straightened, briefly considering returning to the fight. But as long as he remained immune to her roots and slows she would never be a match for him in physical combat.

So, with Ivy’s blessing, she ran. Her illusion collapsed behind her, pretending to be her own corpse. She fled past the invaders already at work destroying Ivy’s beautiful city, invisible, impotent. If Kia had stopped to fight, she’d be overpowered in seconds. She couldn’t fight them alone. Not with her power this drained.

Ivy jogged alongside her, hair whipping in the wind, dress fluttering, backpack bouncing. “I can’t protect you,” the girl said. “You’ve stepped too far into my influence.”

“Why are you worrying about me? They’re trying to kill you.”

Ivy laughed. “They can’t kill me with hatchets and fire. It’s an attempt to intimidate, and to show off to each other how ruthless they can be.” She made a sad little ‘hmm’ sound. “I don’t think we can save them.”

Kia could see how Ivy might feel disappointed at the inability to save their enemies from an overarching viewpoint. Everyone in the experience was her responsibility, of course she’d feel obligated to them regardless of their attitudes toward her. But it was still frustrating to know her friend was pained by failing to save those who were actively trying to destroy her.

The invisibility spell wore off, but they were far enough from Harolski’s gang to be safe. They were nearly to the edge of Kia’s territory now, the destruction crews wrecking Ivy’s city left far behind.

“I wish you’d been able to let this go,” Ivy said, her tone unusually serious. “This is going to be painful for us both.”

“What do you mean?”

“Whatever happens now, know that I’m very proud of you.” Ivy took the smoky glass lizard from her backpack and passed it to Kia. She smiled with nostalgia; she hadn’t seen the critter in a long time. Ivy had agreed to take care of it for her, she forgot how long ago, but seeing it again felt like seeing a long-lost childhood friend.

She stroked its glassy back, and it leaned into her touch. After a moment it gave a bright screeching trill, then ran up her arm and onto her shoulder, where it nuzzled its smoky head against the side of her neck.

Kia smiled. “Thank you,” she said, looking up from her lizard—

and only then realized that Ivy had vanished.

In her place stood Rift.

“Wh— how—” she backed away, looking around in case Ivy had slipped off somewhere nearby, but there was no sign of her anywhere.

Rift took hold of Kia’s arms, not roughly, but firmly enough that she couldn’t wrench free. She dropped, ignoring the strain, trying to yank her assailant off balance, but Rift seemed as immovable as stone.

Kia’s lizard hissed angrily and scampered down her arm, biting at Rift’s fingers. He flicked it away casually, not even watching as it streaked through the air and shattered against a tree trunk.

“No!” Kia twisted and tried desperately to yank free. She had to collect the pieces. Ivy could put them back together.

Rift’s hold never wavered.

This was too cruel, why…

“If you hold still this will be easier.”

“No! I won’t let you… whatever. I’ll—”

Rift’s eyes never flickered, but his knee came up and slammed into her face with enough force that she collapsed, gasping and stunned, supported only by his grip on her arms as he lowered her to the ground.

The pain didn’t last, it never did here, but it had shocked her into losing track of her train of thought. Then, before she could gather her thoughts, she was falling. The ground had collapsed beneath them, so suddenly she didn’t realize what was happening at first. Rift’s grip vanished, and she realized she was falling alone.

Fiery magma gleamed up at her from beneath, the heat oppressive even from this distance. No illusion could save her now, she had no tricks left. And Ivy couldn’t help her.

Her last thought before hitting the surface of the magma was that she was glad her lizard had been broken against a tree. At least there his pieces might one day be recovered by someone. If he’d fallen with her, he’d have been melted away and lost for good.

Then the fire consumed her.


 

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About the author

Asviloka

  • 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 https://www.royalroad.com/forums/thread/110578 )

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