The nights were late, warm, and lazy that time of year. A young girl ran along the water’s edge while the waves crashed against the beach. She was out late, hurrying to get home before the light faded entirely and left her lost.

A large creature scuttled across the sand in the dusk, into the path of the girl. It was proabably as scared of her as she was of it. But, panic got the best of her and she ran. Instict kicked in, and the predator started to chase potential prey.

Panic gripped her, and she paid no attention to where she was going. She scrambled over the dunes, running toward the dark stand of trees just beyond the beach. She dashed into the forest, but heard the crash of the creature following too closely behind her.

Even in daylight, the root would have been hard to see. In the dusky gloom, it was all but impossible. It caught her foot, and she crashed down to the ground. Pain squeezed her foot, and she cried out. The creature was upon her instantly.

The girl turned and swung her fist, connecting against the beast’s nose. It grunted, then let out a sinister hiss. She screamed, and something within her broke. Before she knew what was going on, the creature burst into flame. In its last panicked moments of its life, the creature screeched and tried to run, but only succeeded in spreading the fire. Foilage and debris on the ground were lit on fire, and soon the trees were ablaze as well. The girl screamed, unable to do anything else.

The heat seared the tears on her skin, and the smoke choked her. Darkness clouded her vision when through the gloom she heard the wizard’s voice. “Dorua!” he shouted, calling her name.

She tried to hold on to his voice. He was chanting something and the brightness receded. Cold air swallowed her, chilling her skin and clearing her nose of the ash and smoke.

In the darkness, hands came down and picked her up. She couldn’t see anything, but she heard the wizard’s voice. “I have you now,” he said, “You will be okay.” He kept chanting softly under his breath until sleep took her.

******

She awoke with a start in a strange place. The bedding was a bunch of rough furs, and strange smells assaulted her nose. She sat up quickly and looked around.

“Ah, you are awake,” the wizard’s voice said nearby. “Don’t worry, you are safe.”

She turned to look at the older man. He sat on a low stool, dressed in his ceremonial robes. A stout staff was laid across his lap, and a bowl was in his hand.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“The wizard.”

“Yes, call me Mhorik. This is my hut. I found you in that fire in the forest. Tell me, what started that fire?”

She thought a moment, and the events of that night came rushing back to her. The creature, the chase, the fall, the fire… the fire she created?

“I don’t know,” she finally answered in a small voice.

Mhorik sat for a bit, staring into the bowl. He shook it a bit and a wisp of smoke curled up and out of it. “I think you started that fire.”

Her face flushed hot, and tears splashed down her cheek. “I didn’t mean it, I didn’t want to, I don’t want it!” she babbled all at once. She buried her face into the bedding and cried with shame and pain.

A hand was laid gently across her back. “Calm yourself. Take a breath. I understand, Dorua. I know what it’s like.”

She turned toward the man, took a calming breath, and sniffled. “You do?”

Mhorik smiled, but his eyes showed a tiny bit of pain. “Magic is not always easy to control. Sometimes ability is it born of flames. I would like you to become my apprentice. I will help you control your ability. Use it to help people. Would you like that?”

I wiped my eyes with my hands and thought a moment. The shrieks of the dying animal echoed in my memory. “Yes,” I said in a quiet voice as I nodded.


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