I want to start a new thread story. Not sure how long it will be and I may use different prompts: #vss365 #vssmagic #vssnature etc etc ... I love reading about legends and folk lore, and in my fantasy writing I often create my own myths. So this will be just a fun exercise...
According to #lore &myths of old,griffins nestled on these cliffs long ago. They swooped down on the unsuspecting;carried them off never to be seen again.
Griffins were not elemental creatures,but air & earth did have dominion over them; their only enemy -fire.
#vss365 #vssmagic
"I helped your troupe avoid #shadow and #gore," said the dark wizard simply, implying that he saved us from the mythical griffins. I gaped at him. "And now for what you promised."

"No," I was careful not to get trapped in words, "I said: after you summon her."
#vss365 #vssmagic
The young man frowned in thought as he showed me to sit down & took a seat himself. The ground was cold but fragrant, peppered with #jasmine. As the wizard started pulling out various herbs and magical objects, I realised I was smelling a remnant of a previous ritual.#vssnature
"What's that for-peeling onions?" I made a silly joke about a knife he got out of his jacket because I was feeling nervous.
He wasn't in the mood to joke around. "Don't be #glib. It's an athame, & I would never use it to cut anything. This ritual dagger represents earth." #vss365
"What's that for-peeling onions?" I made a silly joke about a weird knife he got out of his jacket as I felt nervous.
He wasn't in the mood to joke around. "Don't be #glib. It's an athame, & I would never use it to cut anything. This ritual dagger represents FIRE." #vss365
"Fire?!Will that summon the elemental?"
The wizard shook his head.He had arranged his magical tools on the ground between us. "I can perform a ritual,but the dagger can call her to #alight only if she is still nearby. It would help more if u told me how she came to you." #vss365
I squirmed. How could I explain that incredible encounter during my first watch, as I stood sentry over the Devastation? I barely believed it myself. "I too #seek answers," I told the wizard. "I probably know less than you."

His eyebrow flicked up as if in disbelief. #BraveWrite
He didn't say anything,but his appraising look seemed able to see through folds of #fabric into my heart."Keep your secrets- for now,"he said.

The words stung because I already felt guilty leaving my mates & captain in the dark. If anyone was owed the truth,it was them.#vssmagic
The summoning ritual began w/ a simple incantation, which was amplified by the rocks around us into a #choir of voices, calling, pleading, searching blindly. I felt them pass through me & imagined that the entire area would be combed in such a manner.But would she respond?#vss365
I closed my eyes and #venture-d a silent call - from some place deep inside which felt empty and alone, ever since she touched it and left. "Please, come back," my heart begged. "I was not ready to say goodbye."
Opening my eyes, I found the wizard observing me closely. #vss365
The first wisps of #dawn joined our chorus, as we suddenly both felt sth #brew-ing underground. As 1, we jumped up.
"Is this it?"
"She disappeared into the ground earlier. Perhaps she was there all along & is now coming out."
We waited in nervous excitement. #vssnature #vssmagic
But the ground did not open to reveal a being of fire.Instead,half-liquid, half-mist,something #ancient & menacing arose-what I would imagine as #contemporaneous with the griffins of old.

It reached towards me,but this felt different than my previous encounter.
#vssmagic #vss365
When I met the fire elemental,she was reaching TO me,but this being reached AT me.I froze,petrified with unknown dread,unable to speak.
Happily,I didn't have to say anything #aloud.The wizard grasped the situation immediately &got out another magic object:a small chalice. #vss365
As soon as the chalice touched the being, it started backing away, dissolving as if unable to hold its form. The wizard murmured warding spells while slowly lowering the chalice, until only clear water flowed on the ground. In peaceful #reconciliation, I bowed to it. #BraveWrite
After all,the water elemental did not hurt me.

The black #carbon rock under our feet turned #ochre, & then the last drop flowed away, after it had #carve-d a message for us.A warning.

The wizard turned to me in frustration."You should have told me!
#vss365 #vssmagic #vssnature
All my efforts wasted;an elemental disturbed;& why? Because u forgot to mention u are not a woman as u seem! Let's #expedite this at last;tell me: are you a dual or a transcendal;both or neither;a #shell or a myriad?"
"But how is any of it relevant?" I objected.#vss365 #vssnature
"Everything affects the ritual: the surroundings, the objects & the people involved, #prior magic in the air! Today, u were the only unknown. Can u not see the water elemental's message? Your presence altered the summoning call to a threatening cry."

His words made sense
...but I was not comfortable answering the question he posed. "I don't know half the terms you spat at me," I said, turning around to hide my face, heart beating like a #drum. "I never said I was a woman. If you assumed that, then that's on you.
Don't blame me for the spell going awry. 2 days ago, I had never experienced magic in my life. Now, 2 elementals have spoken to me and I am #fighting with a wizard. It's not like my life is going according to plan."

The plan was to impress my captain, not sneak away
In the dawn's new light,I wondered:what am I even doing here?By now my leaving must have been noticed;I'd get in trouble. And for what? Playing at magic? It was not where I belonged.

"Forgive my #brash words." I felt a gentle hand,its apologetic touch hesitant on my arm.
"I do not blame u. If anyone should take the blame, it's me. But I still need your help, so please... 1 less thing to #fret about...let's just be completely honest." I turned around.What was he even talking about? Why so flustered? "Here, I'll go 1st- I'll trust you 1st." #vss365
I didn't think anything else could fit in his coat,but somehow he got out another thing,as if he had infinite storage capabilities in there. This curious object seemed extremely fragile; he handled it with the utmost care & delicacy.
"I found this #chrysalis last week"#BraveWrite
The wizard held it up to light. The outer shell changed colour, becoming transluscent. In the murky insides something moved, a dark #rivulet of life.

"It was on the road your troupe took up the mountain. I removed it &hid myself from your sight, to let you pass unawares."#vss365
"I don't get it. What danger could a chrysalis pose to 18 of us?"

"1?-perhaps none at all- which was why I let you get on with your watch. But now, that road has dozens if not 100s of these same things. We'd need a huge #box to collect them all.Not that I'd advise it."#vssnature
"What is it?" I asked, my throat tight, like I couldn't swallow.
"A bait, most likely. Placed along the road to lure travelers to their death."
"And u are safe from death's #aim? Why do you keep it in your coat?!" I took a step back, half expecting sth to swoop down on us.#vss365
He smiled sadly. A strange #cordolium settled around us, a sorrow of the heart I had never imagined possible. It took me by surprise and silenced me. I stared at him in awe. How was he still alive with such unbearable heartache in his chest?

"Death does not love me" #BraveWrite
Changing the tone,he shook the weird chrysalis at me:"Relax!I put my strongest shield round it-the #seal will hold forever &a day,or until I release it."

Having experienced his shield magic 1st-hand,I could very well believe the boast. W/out thinking,I touched my face #vssnature
"It's your turn," he continued, putting away his strange companion, the perfectly preserved #crepuscular creature inside a chrysalis. "Tell me about the fire elemental.She actually SPOKE to you?"

"Wait! It's gone!" I exclaimed, suddenly realising that my cheek was smooth.#vss365
"Where is my burn scar?!It's not sth that just #hops away!When,how did it disappear?!"
He stepped forward & took my face in his hands. Turning it this way &that,he studied the area which had suffered from the unfortunate meeting of the fire elemental &his reflect spell.#vssnature
"Did the water elemental touch you?" He sounded worried.
"I-I d-don't think so," I said, but my #stutter wasn't very convincing. Through my shock, I couldn't remember now. Yet it seemed to me impossible that such a touch would have healed me.
"No"-he nodded -"it didn't." #vss365
"My apologies,"he said suddenly, letting me go. "I understand now what happened.Never mind what I said earlier: you didn't ruin the summoning. Let's go! I'll explain on the way to the #eyrie.We really shouldn't waste any more time."

The wizard started off with alacrity #vssmagic
...while I still stood there, stunned. "What is happening to me & why am I the only 1 who doesn't know?!"The water elemental attacked me for no reason.The wizard saw sth in me... I turned to run after him, but then I heard a whisper of my #shadow self. She had returned. #vss365
I tried to #master my emotions,for the whisper was coming from deep within me. My body was again being used as a vessel.But for what purpose?Would the fire elemental finally tell me?

"Do you know,at last?" The wizard's question startled me. He meant about her presence. #vssmagic
To me,though,it sounded like he had read my mind. "I know less than ever. You asked me to trust you,but I offer no knowledge. Trust you with what?My ignorance?My vulnerability?If you'll take them,then here they are."

"I'd rather accept those than the #vitriol of lies"#BraveWrite
We walked in silence, him leading the way. I had no idea where we were going or w/ what exactly he needed help. But the silence felt nice, and buried were my fears - at least for the time being. I could only hope that my mind had a large enough #cemetery to bury the guilt.#vss365
The path led up, away from my troupe. I imagined V.'s concern for me,the orders she would give.I practically abandoned my troupe. If I returned,would I ever be forgiven?
Like a scary #hag out of a story,the bard had warned me there were plenty of others to take my place #vssmagic
But as we climbed higher, all those things that seemed so vitally important just a few days ago fell away. And the crisp air sharpened my senses. And the #wind carried with it a promise of freedom.

I looked more closely at my companion. "Does this life make you happy?"#vss365
He stopped to give me a stare of confusion& surprise,as though I asked him if #autumn could be turned into spring.
"No,not happy. It's not sth I have ever pursued. I lead a life of purpose &action. I seek knowledge &power; wisdom,if I can find it. I go where need takes me"#vss365
"And where to now?" I asked.
We had reached a viewing plateau, so he brought me to the edge and pointed at a white peak. "#Silverback Mountain?!" I exclaimed. It was the highest peak south of the Devastation, and one half of it was under eternal snow. Unscalable. #vssnature
"How will we ever get up there?"
"There is one path,"he said. "But we must be as light as a #dandelion to tread it. And, when we reach it, I will ask for complete silence."

We took a rest on the plateau, & I finally asked, though dreading the answer:"What's in the eyrie?"#vss365
"Didn't I say?Griffins."His calm,matter-of-fact tone presented a #stagger-ing contrast to the confusion& panic that began whirring in my brain.

"Griffins?!As in,beings of legend that hadn't been seen in ages?You're telling me,they simply decided to return out of nowhere?"#vss365
"No,"he said slowly & patiently,his tone going down as if he felt the need to calm me. "The little #blackbird I saved when it fell out of its nest flew away &then 1 day decided to return out of nowhere. Griffins, otoh, had left our world, so them being here now means sth."#vss365
"What?What does it mean? Have you actually seen them?" I asked,suddenly filled with suspicion.
"There aren't many huge eagles with the lower back, legs and #tail of a lion flying around. I'm not likely to confuse a griffin for sth else, am I? Although not much is known #vssnature
"...there is 1 survivor account. Famed wizard Aralin, grabbed by a griffin, cast a spell of confusion on the beast, hoping that it would put her down. Instead, it flew up until it reached the #thermosphere, where it is scorching hot. Fire is their only enemy, you see. #BraveWrite
Mortally wounded, it started half-falling, half-flying back. Aralin could already see the mountain & the #woods below hurtling towards them,when the griffin died. They started freefalling." His story invoked a strange sensation in me. Heart pounding, I urged him to go on. #vss365
"Happily,Aralin was a grand wizard,especially skilled in complex spells. She cushioned her fall so when she touched the ground she suffered only some minor injury. But that is not where the story ends."
Like earth to a new dawn,my mind opened to an #epiphany. I stood up #vssmagic
Trembling, like my body could not contain the tidal wave of memories that came surging into my mind, I exclaimed: "They came from all sides, hundreds of huge griffins intent on revenge! And only a lonely #heron standing guard over the unconscious wizard."
#vssnature #tide
I felt my hair #tangle with the wind created by 100s of wings. I saw the oppressive darkness descending upon me. The Sun was hidden, & only a #scintilla of light gleamed white from the lone heron. It was unafraid, but I knew it could not survive the onslaught.
#vss365 #vssmagic
The white heron spread its wings &like a rising #aurora, magic lights ascended towards the clamouring crowd of griffins, who were still beating the air w/ savage fury. The fragility of those lights reminded me of #fireflies, so tiny in comparison. My heart ached #vss365 #vssmagic
A protective,almost motherly feeling stirred within me until it overpowered all else. No #river had experienced such torrential rage;no wind had known such wild storms. The world was Fire. I unleashed all my power at the griffins,burning them to ash...

"Snap out of it!" #vss365
The fireball caught in my mind dispersed,leaving me standing face 2 face w/ the young wizard. He was shaking me by the shoulders &peering into my face w/ deep concern.Only then did I realise he had polychromatic eyes."How interesting"-I smiled, collapsing.#FromOneLine #BraveWrite
Consciousness came &went, its #ebb &flow erratic, unpredictable. 1 moment- I knew who I was, the next I was remembering something that happened to the fire elemental a 1000ys ago. Throughout, I felt healing energy pouring into me from the wizard,who cast spell after spell #vss365
But in an effort to save my sanity he expended too much of his own life force. A #pyrrhic victory found me awake & back to my old self, while the young man lay helpless next to me.He had fainted.
Though we were both vulnerable, I was scared for him more than for myself.#vssmagic
This quest never looked like smiles& #fun,even when I was at the most elated stage of being swept up in theLove of adventure.But now,despair almost overpowered me.I had no other option than to try searching his pockets for some kind of restorative.

#Gorse pods?#vss365 #vssnature
Foxglove flowers? Oleander leaves?

His collection of poisonous plants would kill more than a #turtle. I hesitated. Was I on the side of the good? How well did I understand his motives? In an instant, the memories of him helping me became #evanescent &uncertain.
#vss365 #vssmagic
He was a complete #stranger, asking for my complete trust. "What am I even doing here?" I thought, slightly panicking. "Should I just leave?"

"You told him you were seeking the truth. Have you found it?" Those words came from within me, but it was not my inner voice. #vss365
How did the fire elemental learn to speak so clearly when just 2 days ago she could only reach my mind in wordless images?Did she #soak up the knowledge of my language? I would certainly never consider her #obtuse,but such understanding had seemed impossible.#vssmagic #BraveWrite
"What is the truth?"I asked out loud,demanding to know.

"Once you did #hesitate to strike this man,because your instincts &conscience forbade it.Were you wrong?Have you learned his truth yet?Have you learned yours?"

Her questions calmed my panic,but she didn't answer me.#vss365
"Can you help him, heal him?" I wanted to know. "Can you step out of the shadows of my mind?" And finally: "Can you tell me- what do you want with me?"

At first, there was only silence, but then a shadow fell on us, and the wizard was surrounded by a #penumbra of fire. #vss365
The fire elemental stood revealed in all her vulnerable glory. She looked at me with eyes of #trust & compassion. "I want nothing but 2 help u on ur journey-the way u've helped me on mine."She leaned over the unconscious wizard allowing some of her energy to pass into him.#vss365
Almost immediately, his eyelids fluterred,& his mind returned from wherever it had gone to roam. #Rising slowly, he stared at the fire elemental & then at me, speechless & wary.

"She is a friend," I proclaimed. The words were meant to soothe his fears, but the effects #vssmagic
It changed everything for the 3 of us.
A smile of fire burst like an explosion of the sun in the heavens.
I finally knew where I belonged,who I was.
And my magic companion grabbed my hand;whispered "thank you."
His fragile breath mixed with the pale moon on a blue sky
The next day was spent in great calm & joy -the kind of peacefulness that can only #signify there must be a storm somewhere beyond the horizon's silver edge. And sure enough, an #imbroglio half-comical, half-tragic awaited us at the next turn. My troupe arrived. #vss365 #vssmagic
By then I was imagining V. & the rest back in base camp, sipping hot coffee & glad to have completed another successful watch. I did not expect them to follow or, rather,to get ahead of us!
Eclipsing the sun, V's familiar form appeared on a rock above me,
#vss365 #cafe #vssnature
recalling the equinox, when I watched her transfixed under the dead tree and the #moon.

Just 1 look at my captain engulfed me in deep guilt.Did she feel betrayed?Disappointed?She once saw me as a promising young recruit,maybe even admiring my #innocence.How angry would she be now?

Like an agile lioness,she jumped down- but went straight for my friend!
She pointed an accusing finger at the wizard's face."I remember u from the harvest #celebration!Should have known you'd bring trouble! What- u're not content with spying;u now abduct a child?!"
"What child?"he said in confusion."Besides,nobody's here against their will."#vssmagic
I jumped to defend him & myself. "I'm not a child; I know what I'm doing. And I made a promise which I must honour." V. barely acknowledged me. "What foul magic did you use?" she demanded of the wizard.
She thought I was under a spell!
Anger rose & began to #radiate, as...#vss365
...the fight woke up the fire elemental. She could travel "on foot" but usually chose to nestle in my mind & #hibernate there for hours at a time. She wasn't sleeping now!, I thought, for I could see myself glowing. "Oh, no, wait, stop! It's not that kind of battle!" #vssnature
The rest of the troupe was not far behind.Several of them surrounded me."An attack!" some1 exclaimed.A blanket was thrown on top of me, muffling my protests. Many hands pushed me down & started pounding: Beat the fire!
"Please calm down,"I still begged my #intimate friend
I was fearing the worst:that she'd lash out in defensive rage & obliterate everyone,like she did all those griffins 100s of years ago.
A few people started screaming,but I couldn't see what was happening.
It was then that my ears picked out the sounds of strange #music. #vssmagic
Hands that held me down relaxed& I extricated myself. The tableaux that rose in front of me as I emerged from under the blanket almost made me laugh. People were swaying& standing in weird positions. Whether by chance or #accident, V. lay on the ground w/ 1 leg in the air #vss365
At first I believed this music was part of the wizard's spell, but then I saw him in a similar weird trance as the rest of them. My smile was wiped off instantly."What?Who?"
I turned to see L.the bard playing a strange instrument. "You can do magic?!"
"My secret #gift."
I was aghast,not so much at the discovery that she could use magic,but that she would #betray V. like that!
"How come I'm not affected?" I asked looking round at everyone's sorry state. "And can they be brought back?"
"You..." she came closer,the snake. I took a step back.#vss365
"You're the #treacherous one, aren't you?" She sneered at me. "I tried to give you good advice, but something else came away with you from the Devastation. The only smart thing you did after that, was leave. You ought to run away again, and I'm giving you the chance. Go! #vss365
I glanced around. Leave the wizard & our quest? Well, it was HIS quest,after all... And, what would happen to V. & my mates? Did I care about them when I left the 1st time? Not enough, apparently. But not so little as to allow somebody to #hurt them,either.
"Release them!"#vss365
"Do you care about him so much?"L.approached the entranced wizard."I remember him from the fall #festival,but he was well-hidden then. V.,of course,wouldn't take any chances.She is suspicious of everything &everyone," (L. leaned over the captain), "always on the lookout #vssmagic
"for those with tainted #blood. For monsters." L.turned to me once more,menacing. "She's not your friend. If she knew what you've become,she would kill you."

"I don't believe that. You're lying."

"Then,why didn't you tell her the truth? Deep down,you don't trust her."#vssnature
I decided I'd heard enough. This #acrimonious conversation was getting us nowhere.

"What do u think,my fiery conscience?Shall I #flee or face my fears?" I thought at the fire elemental.
She answered w/out hesitation:"Fear is irrelevant. U must face yourself."
#vss365 #BraveWrite
"Very well,I'll go," said I. "Just let me say goodbye to the wizard. I owe him a lot."

L.shrugged. "You may speak, but I don't think he'll hear you."

She gave me some space, however, which was what I wanted. Slowly, not to #spook her & raise suspicion,I touched his coat.#vss365
When I'd searched his pockets earlier, among various herbs & magic objects, I'd found a curious vial. Black powdered substance that reminded me of death & #decay meant nothing to me at the time. But now, the fire elemental told me what it was & what it could do if lit. #vssnature
Since I had to #disguise my intentions,I gave the wizard a long hug, pretending as if we were much closer than in reality. I hoped he could not feel anything,for I didn't want him to remember my deception.

Turning to the bard,I steeled my heart as I clutched the vial #BraveWrite
The bard realised what was happening before I could throw the hissing powder at her. "Ah,"she cried,"are you not satisfied with a glimpse of my #inscape thru the songs I sing? Must you now take a look at my innards?"
My clumsy, confused self managed to miss, as she jumped.#vss365
The chill in the air that foretold of #winter days completely disappeared. The mountainface,as well. Alright, I exaggerate:the mountain still stood,but it's face was disfigured. & the boom that this tiny amount of powder produced would have been enough to wake the dead.#vssnature
The explosion certainly erased whatever magic L. had used to entrance everyone. Unofrtunately, many were injured, as rocks & boulders flew everywhere, in a wild frenzy that would #foreshadow future events. But I am jumping ahead; I #promise we'll get to that. #vss365 #BraveWrite
As if he were #sleepwalk-ing, the wizard staggered over to me.The mountain still trembled under our feet. He held onto me,saying:"Have you lost your mind?What possessed you to do that?"

He didn't look injured, thankfully,but who knew the effects of his trance? "Are u ok?"#vss365
"Just badly shaken,"he responded. He looked closely into my eyes."You didn't answer my question. Why? Did the fire elemental ask you to destroy the troupe? And even if she did, why would you do that?"

"We are not destroyed" V.rose from under a rubble of #graphite rock.#vssnature
Dirty but as strong & glorious as ever,she moved my heart in ways it was not supposed to beat. But,alas,my silly fantasies about V could not stand up to the reality of her gaze."A fire elemental?"Her tone was dangerous."I won't #sugarcoat this for you,child. You must die."#vss365
"Told you," grunted L,as she crawled up to stand, bleeding & breathless. She had somehow survived the blast!

"And you, traitor," continued V. in that same eerily calm but furious way, pointing a long blade at her erstwhile friend. "Our #quarrel goes beyond betrayal." #BraveWrite
"Oh,give me a break," said the bard mockingly."Sitting around a #campfire,listening to my songs &stories,have you learned nothing about me?The only betrayal that matters is the one you've been a part of for the past 15 ys! You've lost all empathy& become totally obsessed!"#vss365
"It looks like you 2 have your own personal issues to work through,"said the wizard as he pushed me behind him & backed away from the 2 women."We'll just leave you to it."
"Stop!" V.would not let us go, of course. I looked to L,but she didn't have any more #energy left.#lesficfri
I had been so wrong about L. She was indeed trying to warn me, but I was so blind &so lost in my fantasies that I failed to see V.for who she really was: the unrelenting watchdog. V.&L's dramatic breakup, like #saltpeter in that black powder, blew open my false beliefs.#vssnature
The rest of the troupe - injured, confused, #leery of us & L. alike, - came to stand behind V.

"They have strength in numbers and training," the wizard whispered to me. "But I can still cast a shield long enough for you to get away. Run til the 1st #snowflake."
#vss364 #vssmagic
"You must be joking;I'm not leaving you to their mercy. & who will help L.?"
I said this loud enough for the bard to overhear. She directed at me a look of surprised gratitude, but her words were dismissive.
"Disappear into the autumn moon shadows. I'll save myself."
How is it that some people touch us deeply in unexpected ways, while others barely leave a #fingerprint on our soul?

And yet, I did not know her.

She was wild and confusing. She sang songs with hidden meanings. She revealed her secrets because she tried to protect me. #vss365
As V. approached, raising a shiny blade, L.grabbed her broken instrument & flung it at the captain. The blade sliced through it,discordant notes falling down like a #spark that gets extinguished.

I tried to run forward,but the wizard held me back. "Stay away,"he warned #vssmagic
He warned, "There is strange magic in the air!"

"Noo!" I screamed,as V. directed a powerful thrust at L's heart.
In amazement, we both watched the sword go through the bard's body as if through thin air. She was vanishing in a cloud of #primrose yellow & amethyst purple.
Soon, the mountain air absorbed those two colours, and we could no longer see her. Was she dead? Or did she return to the elements quite literally? We barely had time to ask ourselves such questions, however, before we all had to join in a different kind of #clash.

The denizens of Silverback Mountain - temporarily forgotten next 2 Valia's more imminent threat -now decided to show themselves & claim their rightful place.

Several huge beasts descended upon us like an #avalanche  ."Griffins!"cried the wizard as his shield went up.#vssnature
"Now is a good time for your fiery friend to show herself!"

The troupe fought valiantly, but could not withstand the vicious attack. I watched in horror as a couple of my mates were lifted up into the air & thrown off the cliffs.

"We cannot go #retrograde," she told me.#vss365
"What do you mean? Are you not going to fight?!" I exclaimed out loud.
The wizard looked at me in shock. "If she won't fight, we're all doomed. From the mountains to the #moors, griffins will soon terrorize the whole continent, as they once did in the past."
I pushed my mind further, hoping to understand this incomprehensible creature. "Is this how the #saga ends? How can you let this happen?"

A slow, delicate brush-off was my only response: "Just because I can destroy,does not mean I am a destroyer." And then she left again.#vss365
As if I emerged out of a fog, suddenly everything happening around me crashed into my field of vision. People fighting, screaming,dying. V.'s arm was bleeding. The griffin #menace was certainly not exaggerated: intent on tearing us limb from limb, they showed no reason. #vssmagic
The wizard wasn't exactly idle either.His spells kept the 2 of us safe &out of harm's way, but I could see how much he was struggling. Flushed & sweaty,he looked round wildly,desperately searching for something to help us: a cave to hide in, a #dormant volcano to awaken...#vss365
A part of me still #wish-ed that the fire elemental would return, but bereft of her I finally felt like my old self. The one that had agency and willpower of my own. I stood up, determined.
This was not going to be the end for us. I stepped out of the wizard's shield. #vssmagic
Running fast up the mountain, I did exactly what the wizard had bade me do when advising me to get away. Except, I had a different plan.

Soon the cold air brought the first snowlake. That was it! This was the wintry path of our salvation.

#BlackDahliaProse 764
Wintry path
"Are you a dual or a transcendal;a shell or a myriad?" the wizard had asked me after the ritual to summon the fire elemental.We both thought we'd failed,only to realise she could use me as a vessel,nestling like a #pearl in the folds of my mind.But I was not her shell.#vssnature
Shells had no inner drive,while I had plenty.
Neither was I a #hypothetical myriad -a myth as far as I was concerned. A person like that would have to contain multiple people as part of their personality,but I had always been alone.Well,before the fire elemental chose me.#vss365
No,my mind was neither empty nor overcrowded.
It was mine.

But I knew I was different from other people.Neither girl nor boy.
My mind remembered when it was the moon dancing on the rainbow,amid sunlight & rain.

There,on the rainbow's edge,I was born of light &color. #MoonMystic
Most of my life I tried to fit in, to belong to a community. It was why I joined V.'s company. But all of those efforts have only managed to make me small. I still stuck out; only I had diminished myself on purpose.
No longer. My #heart and soul yearned for more. #vssmagic
Snow fell silently in huge flakes,settling on the ground &my clothes,as I waited.I let myself be.Nothing more,nothing less.Isn't freedom the ability to let yourself be free?I stopped imploring the universe for anonymity,for invisibility.I allowed myself to exist.
#vss365 #implore
I let my mind unravel,my #resolve unwavering even while I inevitably cast my thoughts back to the people who had defined me. That unnamed heroine in the painting,who I wished I could become. V.the captain,who I admired.The wizard,who showed me 'impossible' was just a word.#vss365
As I stood rooted to the snowy path,I felt the mountain's enormous presence traveling up into my body. I could have been a tree, transporting mineral nutrients with my #xylem. Only, the power that surged into me from the core of the world was my own. I had put it there.#vssnature
Perhaps Fate wills all, or perhaps we can choose to be master or #mistress of our life. Either way,there was an inevitability to what I was doing. I needed it: to reclaim what was once renounced; to redeem myself; simply to be me.

Shrieks reached me, & flutter of wings.#vssmagic
Soon, they all came, and I was waiting.

The griffins, with #plume-d heads, beaks and claws that could rip you apart.

The humans, tattered yet still fighting, led by a fierce captain who viewed this battle as more than just for her troupe's survival.

And the wizard...#vss365
...the 1 who saved me as I saved him.

And in the ground,although I couldn't see her, I felt the fire elemental still there,waiting. I smiled: this was what she had come to see.

She wanted me to face myself.

A #thief may outrun his shadow, but I couldn't hide my light.#vssmagic
Immoveable like the earth itself,yet more flexible than the winds of transformation,I let the combatants crash into me. Blinking in surprise,they squinted as if to catch glimpses of a tantalizing landscape beyond the light and the snow.
#BlackDahliaProse 766
Tantalizing landscape
"What is it?!" exclaimed someone."What is it?!?!" a chorus of echoes responded,enveloping the troupe in reflections like the moon reflects the sun.
They dropped their weapons.

Above them,the griffins had a clear path 2 attack,but instead,they clung to rocks in a daze
The wizard entered the #gorge where I stood, shaken as the rest but the only 1 brave enough to approach. A #pool of light washed him clean. He smiled.
"Should I bow? O Queen of Light, O Emperor of Radiance,I knew you as a friend once.Will you speak to me?"
#vssmagic #vssnature
"I am who I've always been," I replied.

"No. I won't let you just #normalize all this," he gestured at everything around him excitedly."This is unlike anything I've ever seen, or imagined possible. This is beyond my commonplace spells; it is even beyond elemental magic!"
Wispy tentacles of light floated around, extending as far as the #neighbor-ing mountain, where they #melt-ed away. The world was silent,in awe of something new & as yet unknown.

Except, it was something ancient. But the world had forgotten, & that was my fault.
#vss365 #vssmagic
"I am not transformed. I am revealed." My announcement, or attempt at explanation, evoked diff reactions from my audience.
V. sat down on the ground in #visceral shock that claimed her last drop of energy.
The griffins screeched and flew away, never to be seen again.
The wizard just nodded.His was a wisdom of acceptance.

Letting our fragile breaths form tiny ice crystals,we laughed to 1another. In friendship& understanding,like kindred spirits, like Moon& the stars.

"You could have told me sooner,but if the time is now,I am glad.#MoonMystic
"Such a #shame!" V.'s voice sounded hoarse and defeated. She turned her gaze away from me, as if she could no longer bear it. "Let's go," she commanded the troupe, "we must tell people what has happened."
"Don't turn away one step below the #summit of truth...
#vss365 #vssnature
What will u tell if u don't understand what it is u've seen?"The wizard shook his head,trying to convince them to stay."There's no #virtue in going back with half a story."
"And what truths would the 2 of u want us to relay?"V.croaked."What more illusions have u for us?
"Ilusions?" I repeated. "Do you think my appearance is a trick?" As I slowly approached her, a wayward #strand of hair on her head turned from black to gold. Some of my former mates smiled in delight witnessing similar things happening to them. But V.reacted in horror
"Don't come near me! Had I known you were not human, I wouldn't have accepted you into my company! I would never have touched you!"

Her #relentless, stubborn hate had to have come from somewhere deep in the past. I extended a hand, and light came pouring

#BlackDahliaProse 767
...from faraway reaches of my being. Collecting each shimmer carefully, I stood before my former captain looking as I did when 1st we met.
"If u don't trust your eyes, #consult your instincts. If u can't trust your instincts, remember that my actions were meant to protect #vss365
At the end of the darkness u will find light,"I told her."At the end of the sky, no more #sorrow."

I couldn't hope for a change of heart, but she left without another word, so I took that as a good sign.
"Perhaps others will be #kind-er,"I turned to the wizard
#vss365 #vssmagic
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