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The Lava Sea, green-and-white hot even from the horizon, convinces me that the flatlands continue forever, yet as we approach nearer the waves of heat—and the cavern subtly shifts from a deadpan under my feet, to curving stones and pebbled trails—bioluminescent moss is joined with the occasional vine; then the vines start to thicken with briny, blue flowers; until we reach a plateau, where everything suddenly slopes downward, into a nine-to-ten-foot-wide tunnel layered from floor-to-ceiling with glistening, bright blue moss patches.

I tap the tip of my boot into the thick moss floor, jerking away when my sole smokes.

I'm fairly certain I can't walk on it. 

Bad things will happen.

"Shiva," Ifrit shouts, and my skeleton tries to leap out of my skin; none of us have spoken much in the last several hours, other than Rob rabbling something-or-another about an old magical tome he read about the Dark Crystals.

"What?" Shiva retorts, maintaining her ever-sexy, ice-cold composure.

Ifrit glances at me bared teeth—irritation splattered all over my face—and he sighs; more and more lately, my moods feel larger than me, and I seriously cannot help it. So I don't know why he needs to judge me over it.

He asks, as quietly as he can, "Can you cast Float?"

Shiva rolls her eyes. "No. Why bother learning that?" She opens the back of her robes for a moment, and a current of chilly air rushes up around her; then she drifts just above the ground. Playfulness returns to her eyes. "I fly. All natural."

"YesbutRydiadoesn'tfly," Rob says.

"And I can't barrel down every hall," Ifrit continues, "or I'll knock the whole cave down!"

"Maybe I can cast Float," I offer, holding out both my hands, already drawing the building blocks of white magic to my fingertips.

Shiva opens and closes her mouth. 

Rob narrows his Bomb eyes, which are even beadier than they used to be, ever since I shrank him to pint-size with that chuck-and-explode on the cockatrice.

As white magic crackles from my hands, my mind fills with the warmth of Cure. Cura. Esuna. But no Float comes to me; I continue to flip through the same three pages of gentle spells, over and over, until even my Cura and Esuna seem to vanish into darkness.

My hands start to burn, and I scream, "Fire!?" as a spark lights in each of my palms. 

Then I lift my hands closer, looking into them, muttering mostly to myself, "Why Fire...?"

"Thedarknesswithinyou," Rob chatters, looking half excited, half perturbed. "It'sgrowinghot, fieryhot."

Shiva walks up to me, so that I can smell winter in her breath. I lose myself in the deep blue of her sad gaze. She takes both my hands in hers, and the Fire dissipates.

"Try again," she whispers, letting go of my hands.

"I—I—Umm," I stammer. 

Unable to find words, I close my eyes.

Cure. Cura. Esuna. Collapsing into dark.

"Fire! ...Damn it!"

Her hands return to my hands, and I feel even hotter. Fira might rip out of me. 

"Try again," she breathes, and her chill cools my black magic to nothing.

The third time I reach for my white magic, Rob says, "Thinkofyourmother, DragonofMist. Youcandoit, youcandoit, youcandoit...!"

When I realize my mother's face is blurring on the edge of my memory, I squeeze my face tight. I wince through the pain of her fading away, the impermanence of everything, when all I ever wanted was a safe, stable, warm—

"Think of the sky," Ifrit shouts, scaring the hell out of me. "Think of how we come from the sky and the sea, how we float through all of them—"

And Shiva adds, "Think of how your feelings float around in your head, even when you try to make them drift off—"

Cure. Cura. Esuna. Cure. Cura. Esuna.

"Yourmotheriswithyou," Rob says. "Feelyourmother'swarmth. Notangrywarmth."

"And we're with you," Ifrit yells, his loud voice on my last nerve.

"You can cast this spell," Shiva. "Just say 'Float.'"

Why does she want me to cast white magic now, after all her complaints about it before?


Cure. Cura. Esuna. Cure. Cura. Esu— "Float."

I feel weight release. 

I feel guilt release. 

Rob's right; I am light as a feather. 

And Mom would've wanted me to feel this free. This happy.

I am just as joyous as when Mom lifted my child-body up in the air, swinging me in circles through sunlight, when I was very little; I am floating above my hurt, above this cave and the crashing waters that eddied around Leviathan, in the deep dark of the sea. 

Those moments are a part of me, but I am above all of them, and I am here, where I can swing myself up in the air and contemplate it;

I am here, with the help of my friends, as Shiva holds my hands to keep me tethered to the ground. My feet dangle precariously, so when I bend my knees, I lose my understanding of gravity, flinging my legs up high.

"That is a grand Float spell!" Ifrit cheers, belching an exciting flame, which he promptly cuts off by cupping his hands over his mouth.

Shiva's sideways smile penetrates me. "You might've overdone it; but hey, now I don't have to freeze the floor for you to walk around in the Cave of Sylphs."

"So this is the Cave of Sylphs?" I ask, staring into the bioluminescent blue tunnel.

Rob zips in circles around Ifrit. "NowRydiacanfly. Hellyeah!"

The miniature Bomb fist-bumps Ifrit, whose hand is as big as him.


First draft: July 18

Second draft: August 18

Word count: 927

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