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  • Ablaze

June 01, 2024

ABLAZE

BY JENNA YOUNG

 

The cardigan itched Clara's delicate skin. She clawed at her shoulder and debated ripping it off, exposing her skin to the heat. It was already getting hard to breathe. The desert sun pounded onto Clara as she made her way to the Market Square. The greatest city on the continent and they couldn't shade its busiest section, how typical.

Skyscrapers rose to create the skyline of Solales around the Market Square. At eight in the morning, the crowd was already hustling and bustling. Clara maneuvered her way towards the backside of her father's tent. The words "San Yoste's Wonder Trove" were engraved on the wooden directional sign Clara had to pass under to get to her father's "Wonder Trove." Clara fought to sneak past an older, elvish couple who were pondering the sign. Already struggling for breath and desperate to get cool, Clara stopped dead in her tracks. She surveyed the horde of humans, elves, fae, and even some nymphs outside of her father's tent.

Clara took a second to lean against a faerie's tent as she fought for a breath. Once the faerie started yelling at her in Faeish, Clara got the strength to continue to the backside of her father's tent. Her stomach turned as she entered the tent and finally ripped off her cardigan. It was far too hot for something that warm, but Clara's skin wouldn't tolerate the desert sun and the cardigan was the only cover she had.

Attempting to move forward, Clara instead tumbled backwards into a jewelry rack, causing a ruckus she could barely hear over the ringing and voice that occupied her head. Clara covered her ears in hopes that it would quite the voice of Fate. Instead, the voice of her power continued to get louder. Clara collapsed onto the floor, willing her body to function. Just get it over with, she thought. Then Fate will have no say in the matter. As Clara clamored to her feet, Fate's voice started mixing with one she heard most frequently: her mother's. Breathe, she had to remember to breathe. But with the addition of her mother's voice, Clara couldn't seem to remember to breathe.

"Breathe through it," scolded her mother. The night air was damp as Clara tried sucking in a breath. Her lungs refused to be filled, the power she couldn't control wouldn't let her. Eyebrows drawn, her mother retreated, leaving Clara with the pain of the power and the pain of disappointment.

That pain of her power was something Clara had grown accustomed to. She had also grown accustomed to the pain of disappointment. Which meant that this new pain that coursed through her as Fate and her mother's voices mixed had to be what awaited her at the front of the tent. Shaking from head to toe, Clara fought to stand and stumble her way to the front of the tent where her father was waiting with excited anticipation. The shake of her breath and hands only grew worse as she reached her father and whispered her failures into his ear. Right on cue, her father's features molded into the face that Clara associated with her mother.

"You are a coward, Clara." Her mother stood at the end of the hallway, waiting for Clara to rise. But she couldn't. She didn't want to. The floor was cold, easing the pain that was brought on by her power. Logically speaking, Clara knew the pain waiting behind her mother's cruel hands wasn't worth the temporary relief. As Clara suspected, she was hit with a ray of her mother's power.

"Get up and leave. You are not worthy of the power you hold. Of the power Fate himself bestowed upon our family. You are hereby exiled from the Solales clan. You may join your father in the city, but if you are seen on this camp or using your magic, you will be put to death."

With those words being the last she would hear from her mother, Clara hung to them, letting them invade her mind, body, soul, and power, forfeiting control of herself. 

Her father turned back towards the crowd and cleared his throat. At the potential for the wonderful news that had taken far too long to get to them, the crowd's loud murmurs ceased. Clara turned from the expecting faces. The disappointment was too much. The pain was too much. This is why she had let her mother's words affect her. Clara knew what was spoken to her over ten years ago still rang true. She was an unworthy coward. She deserved the pain. Deserved the stones on her skin that the crowd was now preparing to throw.

At the first collision of rock and skin, Clara's knees gave out. She felt the intense heat. The one she had grown accustomed to. For the first time, she realized it wasn't from the weather. Yes, the day sweltered as the sun continued to rise, but this was a different heat. One from far within her. One that she had shut down ten years ago upon her exile. This time, instead of running or shutting it down, Clara welcomed it. For she would rather be remembered for burning herself up than being a mindless fool stoned to death.

Clara didn't expect to wake. She expected to burn. Burn for eternity. She wanted to be the eternal flame. Alive and in pain because that is what she deserved. She deserved to be an eternal failure. Burning so they would not pelt her and bruise her fair skin. Burning so she would only know her flames instead of the disappointed faces of her friends, family, and clan members. But Fate seemed to laugh at that thought and chose a different path for her.

Gasping, Clara's eyes flew open. She couldn't believe what she saw. The Market Square, bustling with life just a moment ago was nothing more than a pile of ash at her feet. The ash spread for miles, raining down onto Clara's golden head. The sun blazed even brighter as Clara rose on her shaky legs. Was it possible that her acceptance of utter defeat had caused the decimation of the great city? Surely not, yet the carnage surrounding her said otherwise. There was nothing left of her father's tent, the hundreds of creatures who had gathered for the big unveiling, or her father himself. The great San Yotes. His legacy known all across the continent. His treasures sought out by thousands every year. Yet the one treasure his only daughter could not locate ended up being his demise.

Clara was appalled. She could not believe she had used her power, the one that had been dormant for a decade. She could not believe the destruction she had caused. She could not believe that she was the one who would eternally be known for the destruction of Solales, the city named after her ancestors and former clan. Her father, every living being, the great city she had finally started to call home, all destroyed in an instant by a worthless coward. The reality of her actions sank in. Clara tried to feel it. Tried to feel sorry. But instead, for the first time in her life, Clara could finally breathe.