In his excitement to break out of the shackles, the dragon stretched his wings to their full span, causing a section of ice to crash into a heap. This did not stop his sidestepping, making it difficult for Kianika to undue the final chain. And prior to her completing her task, the dragon did a plie and leaped into the air. The motion caught the top of Kianika’s sleeve in the metal work, and she felt herself pulled upwards. For the second time in so many days, her feet left the ground, and her heart accepted an inevitable death. “Stop,” she screamed in vain for nothing could keep that dragon from the skies. He tore through the palace opening, with Kianika dangling beneath, clutching at the metal, and trying to avoid the diamond claws in front of her vision.

As he emerged the winds stopped, and the wood piled around the palace as if driftwood on a beach. The dragon hovered for a moment, gazing into the sun, and Kianika wondered at his thoughts. Everything stilled for a moment, as if they were figures in a painting, rather than real beings. The calm, however, didn’t last long, for the dragon started to perform victory laps around the area, a vulture, thrilled that the universe provided for him. Kianika knew that she needed off the shackle, and that the dragon wouldn’t stop to let her off.

“May all the gods protect me, and may Procella take me into soft arms,” Kianika muttered before ripping off her sleeve and letting go. Again she fell towards the ocean, this time only with the weight of knowing that she might have released a monster onto her people. At the time of her sacrifice, her fear was minimal, for she wanted the relief of death; the worst that could happen was the desired outcome. This time her stomach folded in on itself, her heart beat at double tempo, and she breathed as if she needed to suck in all the oxygen of the world. This time she had to stay alive, and it proved harder than dying.

A wave built itself out in the middle of the ocean and raced towards Kianika. It was as high as a tsunami that killed many of the people of Matoria, but this one with an opposite purpose. It reached up to grab at Kianika, and she felt it twirl around her like a grandmother’s quilt, providing similar comfort. For a moment she panicked until she remembered her necklace and let the wave carry her downwards feeling supported and calm. She regretted when the water spit her out on the beach, but she forced herself to cough up the salt water, and peel her limbs from the sand. The job needed completion.

Turning Kianika saw all three sisters flying in their colored wisps of smoke, circling the palace. But instead of following them, like expected, the dragon had landed on a toppled iceberg. His claws protracted into the ice and his scaly body arched as if in a throe of agony, the brown scales of the dead half of his body clinked to the ice, skipping like rocks on a pond. Beneath, the veins were filling with golden liquid, the lava returning: recharged by the sun. With a final roar his scales started to grow back, he shook his head, opened his jaws and let fire spill out. He laughed, not a laugh of an evil beast, but the laugh of someone exhilarated. The change now completed made Kianika stare at the creature: half blue and half red, utterly magnificent.

The Queens came closer to the dragon and this time he took note. “My captors,” he boomed, “I should thank you. For you fools made me the strongest of my kind. However, my mother taught me that I must always pay my debts, and I owe you big ones.” The Queens flew away, and the dragon followed, blowing a combination of fire and ice as he went. Kianika gathered herself together and ran towards the palace, she could no longer concentrate on the ancient feuds of magical beings.

At the designated spot she met a Triton, and he held out his weapon towards her. After she had grabbed it, she saw him bow out of her peripheral vision. She wished he had not, for it added one more to the list of beings counting on her. Up she raced, into the empty lair skidding in front of the fourth Queen. Her light seemed even paler, and Kianika thought she might have died. She didn’t know if that was possible, but it seemed more likely than the Queen being alive. Nevertheless she started to pick at the ice with the Triton. She could hear the commotion outside of the palace, but she only concentrated on the queen. Chips of ice flew into the air until she started to get to a softer layer. With one final jab, the Queen spilled onto the ground in front of Kianika.

“Your majesty,” Kianika started, but the woman of fire held up her hand to silence her.

“Time is not in our favor Kianika.” Kianika started at her name, how could the queen know who she was? And the woman read her mind, “I know who you are for I know what season of my life I am in. When one becomes a Queen of an element they are foretold their death, you are part of my winter.” Kianika didn’t know what to say so she tried to get the queen to sit up instead. “Leave me be. I must save my energy as the dragon stole most of it. If he finds me, he will secure the rest of fire for himself and this would make him King. Due to the foolishness of my sisters and I, he will also be the King of ice.” Kianika averted her eyes at Ustrina’s chastising of herself. Ustrinia continued, “My power must go somewhere, for it is leaving my body, I am no longer a suitable vessel.”

Kianika nodded, “so what do we do? Do you need a sister?”

Ustrina shook her head, “No. You are the one I need. My power goes to you. This journey ends with your life as you set out for it to do, but you are reborn as the new Queen of Fire.”

“No,” Kianika shook her head and stood, “you are ill from your captivity.”

Ustrina nodded, “I am ill, but I speak the truth as well. No more arguing I have something to tell you. Once I transfer the power to you, the dragon will sense it. He will come after you. You must lead him through the Mists to the other side. Free your kind from his involvement. My sisters will close the Mists behind you.”

“But then I will be trapped on the other side,” Kianika exclaimed.

“You think not about your powers yet, but they will allow you to cross the Mists albeit not right away. You must travel through Izlerian to find Gia, the mother of elements. Only then will you learn how to use the power I give you.” Kianika continued to shake her head, but Ustrina continued, “there is a plot by the creatures of Izlerian to overtake Matoria and enslave your people. You will be vital in stopping such a conspiracy. May you do better than I, in decision making. Now bow before me, for I am about to extinguish and the dragon’s presence is coming forth.” Kianika stood still, “You made a sacrifice, Kianika, to save your people, did you make it for not? Instead did you release a beast upon them?” Kianika stepped backwards, “Bow now or you shall hold their deaths within your bag of liabilities within the next world.” Kianika took a breath and as if moving through water, she bowed. Ustrina placed her hands on top of Kianika’s head. And at first, she cringed and tried to thrust her body backward, her hair lit into flames, and her skin seemed to be melting away from her body. Kianika screamed in agony, continuing even when the burn turned to a pleasant warmth. “May your fire burn and light the way of those in darkness; May your heart guide the powers within. Run princess, run to Gia and become queen.” Ustrina now screamed, while her body disintegrated into ashes.

The time for mourning or reflection needed procrastination, for at that moment the dragon burst through the castle knocking over another one of the spirals that held the entire thing up. Kianika used his shock to run beneath his legs. Still, he turned and tried to blow the fire upon her, but as if shielded it reflected. She pumped her legs and slid down the side of the ice wall. The dragon continued behind her, blowing even though neither ice nor fire crossed the magic barrier. Kianika ran down and started to climb over the dried wood of the ships, scrambling as fast as she could. Though the protection of his promise seemed to be working, she wanted as far away from the beast as possible. Midway through hopping a particularly large pile she heard a swooshing noise. She looked back in time to see the wood of the ships bursting into flame, dried from their twirling in the air. As the dragon continued to spout fire, more of the wood lit.

The ice foundation started to melt, and the palace, having already begun to crumble smashed into the earth. The fire raced, and Kianika found that it surrounded her. But she felt no pain, in fact, she felt extreme comfort by its licks, like that of a kitten that had been soaking up the kitchen sunlight. The dragon kept coming in quick pursuit, and counted on his anger to cloud his judgment. She needed him to hang on long enough to get him through the Mists which loomed ahead.

Her subconscious begged for her to turn around but after a breath she plunged into them. It felt like she lost all solidarity of her body, it broke into hundreds of pieces and floated through the holes of the mist, she could have allowed herself to completely dissipate, leave all the worries behind but Ustrina’s warning about the bag of liabilities rang in her mind. She pushed forward, so forcefully that when she reached the other side, she stumbled down a hill and fell flat on her face. Though she tried to pick herself up her body failed her, and all she could do was listen as the dragon broke through the mists and landed a few feet from her.

He started to pace around her but was unable to get close enough to cause her harm. She saw him looking around and then the dawning of recognition that crossed his face. A loud crack boomed through the air, causing trees in the area to fall all around them. Kianika looked back towards the mists and knew they closed, she was stuck in Izleria. The dragon realized it as well and flew into the Mists many times, cursing the Queens under his breath before returning to Kianika. After a long while, his pacing slowed and he spoke.

“Well Young humanoid, I wish you held more wisdom in your being. It is true that I may not do anything to until you injure me. Setting me free offsets the scheming you participated in. But I’m not concerned. I need not take care of you now, for there are many things this side of the mists that will do it for me.” Kianika cringed at her minds imagination of what those beasts would be. “I will get my desire at your death. Enjoy the moments you have.” The dragon spread his wings as if to leave but then stopped, “Now, I have a family reunion to attend. And I expect to move up to the head of the household.” The dragon blew out a wall of ice to demonstrate his point chased by a wall of fire that melted his first product. He laughed as Kianika struggled to sit, his wings flapped and the wind circled her body. As he flew over the nameless mountains, she stood completely. Behind her lay the mists impassible, ahead of her lay her true sacrifice. She took one more step off the cliff to oblivion.