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the breath of a fire

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“It’s time,” Asura says.  

Her voice is not gentle.   Maybe she’s being easy on me, Rydia thinks; Asura wears her warrior-form, the mask inscrutable.  They will not let the mess of human emotion into this, her Eidolon-parents.  Whether they understand nostalgia and love and regret, or whether they are so foreign and far to the human ties that bind a family that it isn’t even a dragon-twisted possibility, Rydia does not know.  She has no point of comparison with which to judge them.

They have come to collect her from her private cot, in the secret room of the library: which they gave her because originally she could not sleep, the wax and wane of the fiery ground outside completely foreign to her circadian rhythm, and this way she could find comfort when she could not sleep in books and scrolls.  It has been her room since she was seven, because in her ten years here she has not wished to move.  Comfort is comfort; and she knows that time flows differently in the Feymarch, she knows that her body has settled, but somehow her decade under magic seems to have flown by too fast.

“How do you know?” she asks, finally, even though her body has gone through the motions in the last moments: her whip is coiled and secured at her belt, her pack thrown over her shoulder and her mother’s precious gems tucked into her hair.  Her instincts know, even if her brain dawdles like slow lava crust.  There’s no doubt in Asura’s voice.  

“You know we both can read the times,” Leviathan says.  He is, in fact, in his human garb - although with the Lord of All Waters it makes little difference.  His human countenance is more foreign than his true form, to be honest, because Leviathan spends very little effort to appear truly human, and magic at his level is impossible to hide; what it appears as is superhuman gestures, fluid motions too fast and slick to follow, and expressions that are not even close to what Rydia remembers of humanity.

“I’ve Seen,” Asura says, and the word is emphasized.  Rydia knows that the All-Holy has the power of visions, but cannot control it; so this is important.

“If you leave now,” says Leviathan, and he is trying to be gentle - Rydia remembers little of human expression, but she has learnt over the years how Leviathan is, whether human or Eidolon - “you’ll emerge from the Feymarch in enough time to save them.”

Save them,” Rydia says, and her too-human voice chokes in her throat, her too-human emotions bubbling up through her heart into her mouth - even in ten years she has not yet learnt entirely how to shut her emotions away when needed, as Eidolons do.  “Save who?”  There is a pause where Asura meets Leviathan’s eyes, and to her embarrassment she squeaks out: “Cecil?”

“Your passage will be harder than most,” Asura says.  “You have been here many years, almost-daughter, and you are of our blood: while Cecil and his companions toil through a time a handful of sleeps away.  The Feymarch will hold to you, to keep you within her greedy grasp.  You must make it out in time to intervene.”

Leviathan closes his eyes - and suddenly her library room is nowhere; it is at the mouth of the Feymarch, where the Arachne weave their own nightmares with the wraith-Summoners and the cries of the Fell-Knight to create a floor no one dare step on. Rydia starts, because the fierce glow of the floor is already peeling away, stretching glowing poisonous tentacles towards her in an attempt to ground her feet in the low deep flames.

“Fight your way, my child.” Leviathan’s voice is unmistakably full of endearments and dragonly pride, and he unwinds from his human body to press his scaly forehead against hers.   Fight your way, and save the only Light that remains.  If you fight with him, he will meet his destiny true and hale, with you as a weapon beside him.

“I’m not,” Rydia says, and her voice wavers with what she fears are unshed tears.  “Will I come back?”

“That is up to you,” Asura murmurs, and her tri-faces turn a circle so that each one can press a kiss to her cheek.  

“If I can, I will.”  She clutches the whip she made with her own hands, at her belt, and remembers the powers she has earnt at her own hands, to call as she needs.  “I will not abandon you.  I will assist Cecil, and strike down what he faces, and we’ll all know victory and peace together!”

My sweet-daughter, Asura murmurs.   You are the Sword of the Eidolons, for our strength is not the type to manifest in steel and bone and sinew; we have manifest in you, your flesh and blood and magic-veins; and you we trust to wield us as weapons in this war.  Now, go.  Pass the time-magnets of the caves and drive the heart of us into the enemy that endangers your Cecil and your friends.  I have Seen that if you will, you will return to us.

“We give you what time we can,” says Leviathan, and his gasp lifts her feet from the ground, the standard rite-of-passage through the mazes.  “We give you what we have seen, and what we can.”  His voice is so low in her mind that she is not sure it is not a figment of her imagination:   Return to me, dragon-daughter.

It is hard to part ways, when she has had only moments to accept this, while her parents have had lifetimes of Seeing to explain the boundaries: but she trusts them, and she will follow in their footsteps even to the edge of the moon.

“I’ll be back,” she says, and their eyes are suddenly too human for her to bear.  She turns, and walks her glowing feet across the threshold of the Feymarch, and begins her long trek back to human-space and human-time, Cecil’s name like a star in her head to lead her.