Flame of the Soul

I trekked up the mountain with a pail of crops from the harvest as it was once again time to offer a fair portion to the Azurefaro in exchange for peace in the village. I lifted the pail and settled it into the crook of my arm before climbing a ladder to the tallest platform rock.

After so many horrid incidents of travelers and village folk alike being burned alive, anyone with the duty to feed the Azurfaro or the courage to travel just to see it climbed the same ladder. When I reached the top of the solid platform, my eyes settled upon a small, hooded figure sleeping on the rock.

I avoided the temptation to disturb the sleeping form and edged my way around it. I sat on the edge of the platform, watching as the monstrous silhouette traveled amongst the shadows. Its massive size made each step thunderous, shaking both land and rock. I heard the figure stir and wake in a flurry of rushed movement. The figure slumped beside me, sweeping the black cloak away from the edge of the platform.

“I’m so glad I didn’t miss the creature.” The voice bounced with the excitement and fragility that could only come from a child.

I turned to the small silhouette, ready to warn her away when the Azurefaro opened its gaping maw. A portion of land lit in a blinding blue light, a held flame. I secured the pail with a rope, and two small, pale hands grasped the rope.

“Please, can I help?”

My head whipped to the side, facing the girl. Before I could argue, the Azurefaro growled deep within its throat and the light flashed, ready to swallow and burn everything around it.

“Fine, steady.”

We lowered the bucket of vegetables down to the massive creature. The blue flame flickered as its tongue slithered into the pail and fished the food out, consuming it all in one bite. Its eyes blinked and it growled again, opening its mouth.

“It’s still hungry.” The child stared at the creature for a moment before turning to me. “Do you have more food?”

“I don’t. This has never happened before.” I yanked the pail back up.

The flame brightened as the creature’s head drew back, fueling the flame with one last breath. I grabbed the child by the arm and pulled her away from the edge. I shoved the girl down and hovered over her with my body before the azure flame exploded from the monster, striking the base of the solid platform. It trembled with the power of the fire.

I felt the child shake beneath me as the creature roared, drawing in a breath for another strike. I looked up in time to see a spray of flame erupt from the creature’s throat, engulfing land and trees alike until both turned to mere ash. The Azurefaro head whipped from side to side, snarling and bashing its head into the ground.

“Oh, hell. The creature’s gone mad!” I lifted away from the child when I felt her stir beneath me.

Her head popped up and she gasped at the sight. She stood and walked to the edge of the platform, arms outstretched toward the monster.

“It’s sick.” Her voice broke under the weight of emotion.

The creature roared and pounded the ground, firing a weakened flame into the sky. It choked and sputtered, trying to prepare another blast. I wandered to the edge and gripped the girl’s shoulders.

“We may still have a chance to get away. I’d pray for enough time to warn the villagers.”

She shook her head. “I want to help it.” Her voice trembled and lowered as not to disturb the creature further.

“You’re out of your mind. There’s no helping that beast.” I attempted to pull the child back, but she refused to budge.

“Speak for yourself.” The child’s voice lowered and aged before she leaped off the platform.

I dove to grab her but my hands grasped at air as her cloaked silhouette plunged toward the ground. I opened my mouth to scream, but a blinding white light flashed, lifting the cloaked girl up high enough to grab the Azurefaro attention.

I reared back as the girl created light with her bare hands, bending it to her will. The white beams curled and surrounded the distressed creature, encompassing its entire form. The Azurefaro ceased its thrashing as the pure streams seeped into the creature. For a moment, silence swallowed the ashen valley. Then, a crimson beam burst from the creature’s maw, rising, swirling, and hissing before the blackness of night swallowed its evil. The creature rumbled deep within its throat as its head bowed. Its form wandered away from the valley.

The girl floated down to the ground, kneeling in the middle of the burned wake. I rushed to the ladder and half climbed, half dropped down the rungs. I met the child on the ground, dragging her to her feet and gripping her shoulders.

“What in holy hell was that?”

“You are a Feeder, I am a Healer.”

“You’re a foolish child.” I embraced her before she crumpled. “Who deserves all the praise in the known world. Now come on.” I pulled her away from the burned wake.

“No, not yet.” She faced the valley and knelt to the ashen path again. “I’ll need your help with this part.”

“But I-”

“You are a Feeder, not only to the creature, but to the land. Give me your hand.” Her voice remained low, years beyond its physical age, with the wisdom of an elder.

I offered my hand to her and she grasped at it, forming a spark when she touched it. I felt an immense heat in my hands and tried to pull away, but she yanked me to my knees. She placed her free hand to the Earth and I copied her when I felt her gaze on me. A green light spawned and flowed up the burned path, tracing each blade of grass, each shrub, and each tree in green lit ghosts of where they once lived. Grass sprouted under our feet, spreading to cover and paint the land as it’d been. Shrubs and trees spawned anew, growing in a few seconds what should’ve taken years. Branches reached and grasped at life as the burned mass of land in the valley continued to be reborn.

When all life had revived, the emerald light seeped, faded, and died away, leaving us in a lightened valley where the sun began to rise.

The girl stood and swayed, crumpling back to her knees. “We did it.” Now, her voice had risen and returned to the familiar fragility a child’s words should carry.

I stood and held myself steady, gaining my bearings back before lifting her cloaked form into my arms. Her eyelids fluttered with fatigue and closed as she dozed off. I left the pail on the platform and traveled back toward to the village with the cloaked Healer.

“Don’t worry, I’ll give you all the credit, foolish child.”

Her lips curled up in a tired smile before it faded with deep, steady breaths into a well-deserved sleep.

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