Page 47

Worm shit, that had to be Cactus. The crowd in front of me shifted and for a split second I saw my childhood friend on the ground, a pool of blood around him, before the crowd closed again, hiding him from view. My heart clenched at the thought of him dying. No matter that we would never be a couple, I still cared for him. He was still my friend.

Fiametta spun suddenly and the crowd gasped. Whatever Flint was doing, this was my cue. I sprinted through the crush of bodies, pushing elementals out of my way as fast as I could. I broke through, and saw Cactus. There was nothing I could do for him if I didn’t stop her. I leapt at Fiametta.

She spun at the last second and raised her hand to me. Brilliant red lines of power rippled up her arms and the blast caught me mid-air. I was flipped over backward, the front of my vest on fire.

I hit the ground, rolled and put the fire out. “Fiametta, you are going to kill your own family!”

She didn’t answer me. Flint crept closer, but she seemed to sense him. She spun and flicked a hand at him. A pure rope of lava sprang from her hand and wrapped around his waist. If it tightened . . . he’d be cut in half.

I called up my connection to the earth and opened the ground under Fiametta, drawing her attention back to me. She snarled and dropped her son. I closed the ground around her feet and drew her further down into the stone until only her head was visible. The same trick I’d used on her the last time I’d been in the Pit.

Only this time, it didn’t work the way I’d hoped. The lava and fire didn’t stop. If anything, it ramped up to an even greater rate of death and destruction. The lava that cut through the plateau rose and swept toward me at an unnatural speed, heating the air to the point where breathing was a serious effort.

Flint and Cactus would be hit first, and I wasn’t sure they’d survive the lava in their injured states, despite their bloodlines.

I didn’t have time to consider the consequences, it was either act now or die as the lava closed in on me. I grabbed my leather pouch and pulled out the sapphire. Gripping it, I tapped into the water available, the river that ran perpendicular to the lava flow.

Using all three powers open to me, I poured Spirit into Earth and Water, boosting what I could do with them. I opened the earth in a line in front of the oncoming lava. Diverting the river, I flooded the banks and drew it toward the burning oasis, putting the fire out.

Fiametta stared at me as she pulled herself from the stone inch by inch, dripping with sweat, and I realized how she’d done it. She’d melted the stone around her, softening it so she could free herself.

“You lying little bitch. You are taking the stones for yourself. You think you can rule our world? That isn’t possible. None of it is possible, no matter what he says.”

At the far edge of the plateau, four Firewyrms emerged from a sidewall entrance I’d not seen.

Flint groaned and pushed himself to his feet, one arm clutched around his middle. “Lark, you must end this now. They will kill us all if she gives the word.”

Fiametta snapped her fingers as if his words had reminded her that she had that ability. The Firewyrms surged forward, teeth snapping, scales sparkling. The crowd didn’t move, though, as if they were held by unseen bands.

“Run, you idiots!” I yelled, and the spell over them was broken. They scattered.

“The main door!” Flint commanded. They listened to him, and the Firewyrms seemed uncertain about whom to attack—the Salamanders, or me. The pause gave me a chance to stave them off.

I spun my spear out and sprinted toward Fiametta. Weaving Spirit and Earth together again, I used them to tear up the ground in front of the Firewyrms. There was no finesse needed here and my elements reveled in the lack of control. Chunks of rock and dirt exploded in a line, smashing into the big lizards. At another flick of my hand the ground rippled and threw them to the entranceway. I couldn’t stop them completely, but I could buy some time.

Flames burst up at my feet, burning the side of my leg. I jumped to one side, rolled in the dirt, and up onto my feet again. But the flames did not slow. I spun and saw Fiametta through the fire, and another figure behind her.

I threw my spear, deliberately aiming to one side. Fiametta dodged the weapon easily and laughed.

“You are a failure, just like your friend.” She motioned to the ground behind her. Only he wasn’t on the ground.

From behind her, my spear was shoved through her back. She stiffened, a scream on her lips, but no sound came out.

Cactus caught her as she slumped. “I’m sorry, Fiametta. It had to be done.”

“And so did this,” she whispered. Her hands clutched his face and they lit on fire. He screamed, and I ran to them. I tackled Fiametta away from Cactus, slamming her against the hard-packed dirt, which jammed the spear in further. She laughed, blood flowing over her lips. I grabbed her hand and pulled the ring off.

Not that it would do us any good now.

Flint was at my side, tugging at me. “We have to go.”

“She’s dying.”

He jerked me hard. “She’s unleashed the lava.”

I snapped my head up as the lava burst out of the seam in the earth I’d sucked it into. “Worm shit.” I considered putting the ruby on.

This world is dying, child. Let it die. Let us start again, fresh and new.

The voice was the same as the one from the Deep. The same voice from the Eyrie when the mountain had spoken to me, told me it was time to take it back from the Sylphs. A shiver rolled through me. I was not going to argue with something that felt as though it was every element in the world wrapped into one consciousness.

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