Sunday, February 5, 2017
February 1st 5 Pages Workshop- Smith
Name: Jamie Rusovick-Smith
Genre: Young Adult historical fantasy
Title: The Burn Kingdom
Mother Nature narrowed her eyes and quirked an eyebrow at her eldest daughter. Azara kept her face composed, her shoulders square, and her head high. Rusted sconces lined the walls of the lair, flickering despite the fact that none of Azara’s sisters rustled through this wing of the cave. Their glow was mildewed over and weak, but it didn’t hide Mother’s disappointment. Her color-changing eyes were proof enough. They glowed yellow, the color of trepidation or annoyance. Stark and vivid against Mother’s glittering, energy-filled skin. She always looked regal, her crown of thorns nestled into her water-like hair and flowing gowns of silk, but she also looked frigid. Like ice and hate and general disgust.
Well, Azara would show her something.
In the near dark, dank cave, Azara took a deep breath, exhaled and raised her hands. The musty air sizzled against her coal lungs, and the resulting smoke tickled her nose. One breath, two. Her palms crackled with fire, burned from deep inside her body, and exploded outward. A massive fireball formed, more than three times Azara’s height in diameter, then crept towards the edges of the space. The fire crawled towards the pockmarked walls, towards the ceiling dripping with stalactites. It smothered nearer and nearer Mother and Grimmer.
A smirk snuck onto Azara’s lips. She could make it even bigger. Make it fill every inch of the underground cave including her sisters’ quarters and the training wings. But then Mother and Grimmer would burn like dried branches, and then Azara would never be given permission to leave the lair.
“How’s that?” Azara cocked her head and opened her eyes wide. Innocent. Not condescending. Much.
Mother inspected the fireball. The silk of her gown wish-wished around her legs as she circled the small sun. She pursed her lips, ran her fingers along the licking edges. “Can you make it burn hotter without expanding the size?”
“Of course.” Azara’s thoughts drifted towards her room. Perhaps she’d give herself an oil bath when this was done. Didn’t she have some—
When Mother clucked her tongue, Grimmer flicked his wrist and the ball vanished in a puff of smoke. Azara’s mouth gaped and she glared at her mentor. The old man grinned right at her, the ends of his mustache tilting up towards his nose, then tipped his head. His long salt and pepper hair was pulled back into a ponytail, but the long end fell over one shoulder when he bowed at her.
Mierda. Azara resisted the urge to stop her foot, but she did fold her arms across her chest. Show off.
“The power is there, but the concentration is not.” Grimmer shrugged. “Easy to dispel when your heart is not in it.”
“Dismal.” Mother crossed the cave floor and glared at Azara as she passed. “I’d expected more of an improvement in your focus by this point. You’re nearly eighteen and—”
“You act as though I’ll have competition when I go to the surface.” Azara blew a lock of raven-black hair from face and followed her mother, lean legs taking long strides to try and keep up. “They have no way to protect themselves, right? Wouldn’t help each other even if they could. So why should I put forth any extra effort when I can do my job without exerting myself?”
Mother whipped around and her red eyes stopped Azara mid-step. “I made you with talent to spare. But that doesn’t give you the right to be lax in your focus. You’ve no idea what the outside world is like.”
Azara pointed at the ceiling and all of the world above her that only Grimmer had told her anything of. “I would know if you’d ever let me out of the lair!”
“Silence.” Mother didn’t have to raise her voice to make her point clear. She held an energy filled hand near Azara’s throat and squeezed. Azara held firm, tried to be brave, but her knees trembled. The energy pressed into her airway. She couldn’t inhale.
“You,” Mother spat, “won’t leave this lair until you are fit to end the world. The only thing standing between you and your duty, is your massive ego.”
Mother released Azara. Her instincts told her to rub her throat, to take several deep breathes, but she didn’t want Mother to know that attack had rattled her. She didn’t want to seem weak. So she stood statue-still and lowered her eyes to the floor. It was a good thing a girl made of fire couldn’t cry.
Mother turned to Grimmer. “What have you to say for yourself?”
The old man exhaled, tucked a cigar between his teeth, and pulled yards of black fabric around his frame, as he leaned against the wall of the cave. “She has a strong will. Not sure we’ll ever break it.”
Mother huffed. “What sort of mentor are you?”
“A patient one.”
Mother and Grimmer stared daggers at one another then Mother left the room.
Azara let herself exhale then and her shoulders deflated. She pressed her hands into her sides, her fingers warming against her internal heat. This was all Grimmer’s fault. “You didn’t need to embarrass me.”
Grimmer righted himself and walked over to Azara. He blew out a coil of wispy grey smoke, then tipped his head. His grey eyes sparkled even in the dim glow of the sconces. He smelled of cherries and cinders. “You’re not trying hard enough.”
“It’s only because it comes so easy to me. I have no need to try any harder.” Azara turned her citrine eyes on her mentor. The edges of his mouth crinkled, his eyes lost a bit of their sparkle. She felt the change in his posture and the guilt clawed behind her ribs. “But I suppose if I don’t apply myself soon, Mother will have Ria take my place. You’ll have spent all this time training me for nothing.”
Grimmer scoffed. “I wouldn’t worry about that much. Your mother is anxious, to be sure, but she holds to tradition. She’ll not give away your birthright unless she’s given no other choice.” His face held a harsh line, a certain set to his jaw which Azara thought might be grief. Of course… Grimmer might be the most powerful of them all, but he was a man in a Matriarchal society.
Azara gulped and turned her gaze on the cavernous ceiling. “I’m sorry for wasting your time.”
“You haven’t. Ria on the other hand…” He shook his head.
“Ria.” Azara’s redheaded and deadly younger sister. For all her eagerness, Ria listened even less than Azara and she had a slew of bodies in her wake to prove it. Not that Mother minded the deaths. It was just that Ria had gone and done it without anyone knowing. What if she hadn’t come back to the lair in one piece? What if she had ended the humans without Azara’s help at all? She would have made Azara’s existence— what was the word? Azara shuddered. It didn’t matter. Ria had been stopped. The human God had seen to that…
Grimmer tucked his hands into the folds of his robe and headed towards the mouth of the cave. “Get some rest. You’ll be useless for training otherwise.” His robes dragged along the cave floor, hissing and ruffling dust as he vanished into the darkness.
“Useless.” Azara snapped her fingers and sighed. That was the word. Ria had almost made her useless.