Moogles

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Just as Ifrit warned, the depths of the Cave of Sylphs opens from the round, bioluminescent tunnels to a crater filled with chrysalis pods. In the pods, sylphs hibernate through various stages of birth and rebirth, bodies rolling in sacs of fluid held by transparent, mint-tinted skins.

I let go of Shiva's hands and let the Float spell take me to one of the pods, where rabbit-shaped, insect-fuzzy feet twist at the edge of the pupa. A thin layer of silk attaches the pod to the mossy floor. It looks like the moss provides the muck that nourishes the cocoons—a life force that, if I were to touch it, would possibly kill me.

My prickling curiosity keeps me adrift there, not too close to the ground, nor too high up to the ceiling, drifting along the pods; drifting in the gentle arms of my own white magic. 

Shiva flutters up behind me, close enough that I feel her chill on my back.

The pod pushes up, rolls into itself, then expands out into the world, similar to the rectilinear wriggle-jiggle of a snake. The more it pushes, the more of its minty skin it leaves behind, as a slimy, furry white body with dark pink feet, ankles, and shins forces out of the cocoon.

I want to help the sylph unravel from the pod, until I'm startled back by the burst of fuchsia glowing feathers that spread out. What a vibrant color! Her feathers are just as bioluminescent as the moss, but neon pink instead of green; I wonder why Trancy's wings weren't this way.

Trancy had gossamer wings, like a pair of crystalline curtains. Nothing with this pink pop.

Shiva's voice hitches in her throat, stammering, "Ifrit! C-come here! This pod isn't a sylph!"

"Rydiagetawayfromit," Rob shouts. "Itattractedyoutoitonpurpose!"

I don't know how to Float backwards. I'd have to turn around to fly towards Rob. And I don't want to turn my back on the little, feathery creature, especially now that Shiva and Rob are both in a panic.

Ifrit barrels through me, sweeping me up in his arms as he goes, and his fiery body roars against my skin. Before I even think about it, I scream, "Shell!" but even that's not enough; his heat still burns half my skin.

As I'm trying to make sense out of the sudden shock of pain, it occurs to me that Ifrit knew he'd burn me—yet he chose to push me out of the way, anyway—so whatever just birthed from the pod must be dangerous, indeed.

I stammer, "Cura," and some of the swelling lessens.

Yet this somehow makes the left side of my body ache more, maybe because I'm now at the point where my mind thinks it can handle the remaining, mind-throbbing burn. Had I not cured myself in time, I would've passed out, the Float spell would've ended, and the poisonous floor would've finished the other half of me.

Shiva flies overhead of us, wrestling with something a hundredth her size, with a fluffy pink ball whisking around its bottom. She tells us, "Moogles are also breeding in here!"

Rob zips up next to me, asking, "Rydiaareyouokay? Mooglesarefriendlywhenthey'rebig, but— but— but— theirbabiesareDANGEROUS." 

Ifrit lets go of me, slowing drifting further and further back, giving me the space to recuperate in my Shell and Floats. I try to cast Cure, but it doesn't come. So I reach into my bags. No potions. Ifrit sees my face draw blank and tosses me a dark blue vial.

Shiva swerves around us again, until Ifrit lifts a finger up in a burst of superhuman speed and flicks the Moogle down the winding tunnel from where we came.

"We need to leave while its dazed!" Ifrit bellows.

"YesbutRydiaisdazedtoo," Rob says.

Ifrit turns to Rob, irritated by his questioning, and the Bomb shrinks closer to me.

Shiva lifts her hands in front of her, drawing advanced sigils. "Curaga."

I rub my head. The burning is only patches of tingling now. For giving me so much grief about white magic, Shiva's Curaga feels amazing. I wish I could cast spells like this.  

As my body is soothed in lime-light, Ifrit tries to whisper to her, sounding more raspy than quiet, "Careful. If you run out of magical power, we're up Eidolon creek."

"You're the one who fried her," Shiva sneers. "Why didn't you just let Rob help her?"

"He's too small!" Ifrit tells her. "Look how much he shrank!"    

Rob shrinks away. I risk pulling him up to my chest to hold him. As I suspected, the Shell keeps me from catching Fire from his little flaming body; but the rapid vibrations of his two hearts tickles me terribly. I laugh, and he pushes himself into me harder, hugging.

Ifrit hurries into another winding tunnel on the left side of the chrysalis chamber. Shiva glances at me, and I nod through my nervous smiling, then she flies off, Rob sputters along her trail, and I Float behind everyone else.

♥♥♥

First draft: July 18

Second draft: August 18

Word count: 837

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