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Crucible

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“Sooner or later, we all go through a crucible. Most believe there are two types of people who go into a crucible. The ones who become stronger from the experience and survive it, and the ones who die. But there's a third type. The ones who learn to love the fire and choose to stay in their crucible because it's easier to embrace the pain when it's all you know anymore.”

 

Near the end of her reign, Princess Emeraude found herself reflecting more and more upon her trials to become Pillar. If it wasn’t Zagato on her mind it was her trials.

Neither of these things were things she should have been dwelling upon with all of Cephiro in danger.

But she supposed that was one more failure to add to her ever growing list of failures.

She had failed her people, her duty, Guru Clef, Zagato, she would even go so far to say she failed Lantis too. She was quite certain she was the reason he had left, knowing what was about to come to pass with her feelings for Zagato beginning to impede her ability to pray for Cephiro.

She had failed so miserably, she deserved the fate that awaited her with her Magic Knights.

And that thought made her once again think of her trails.

The screams and cries, the horrible firestorm that had followed the loss of the previous Pillar.

She could almost still feel it now on her face, the haze of the heat, sparks flying on the high wind and bouncing off her shoulders, flickering around her hair. It was like the whole world would burn itself to ash.

There had been so much loss, she had not hesitated to take the path when the Creator had shown her the way.

It had been right after her trials that the old master healer Corolla had told her something that she would not think about again until much later in her rule.

The healer was ancient, older than even Master Clef, and had been teaching her some of her more advanced spells. They were taking a break for tea and now the old woman’s bony hands, skin so thin it was near translucent, were combing through her hair with a soft brush.

The calming gesture helped her to relax and cleared her mind, keeping the continuous prayers flowing in the back of her mind coming at a steady pace, while she also concentrated on the spells she’d been learning.

Emeraude let her gaze wander to settle on Master Clef who was instructing Zagato and his brother Lantis across the garden.

Both were progressing so well, Zagato was to be her Sol and Lantis her Guard Captain. She was certain they both would do well. Clef had even talked of giving Lantis the title of Kal soon. The Master Mage had looked so proud when he’d told her that.

Zagato had laughed at something his brother said and her gaze traveled to him. The elder brother of the two, he was more talkative than Lantis, he smiled easily and often.

Just then he turn his gaze to her and offered a gentle nod and smile of acknowledgment.

She wasn’t sure why but it caused a small pang in her chest.

She felt the old woman sigh and turned to look over her shoulder at her. Corolla’s eyes were bright, a rich dark shade of green, like Cephiro’s ancient forests, but something about her gaze today was different.

“What is it, Corolla?” Emeraude asked.

Corolla had shook her head and smiled a sad smile that Emeraude would soon learn to know all too well. An expression that would become as close to her as her prayers.

“I want you to remember something Princess, in all my years here I’ve learned one thing. All Pillars end as they begin.”

So many years later, those were the words that came to her.

Zagato was gone.

The world was shattering all around her.

The ground upheaving with her grief and madness.

Her Magic Knights were here.

There was a flash, bright and hot, the heat of a blaze, of a sword in her chest.

Ah, yes this was it. She understood now.

“All Pillars begin as they end”

For Emeraude that meant only one thing.

Pillars die as they are born.

In flames.