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Flames raged against the horizon and smoke blotted out the stars above Leylana as she crouched behind the boulder. Shrill cries of her phoenix rang through the trees as she shuffled through the pages of the tome at her knees. The spirits closed in around them through the shadows and she knew his flames could not hold them off forever. As the wind whipped through the forest, the sea of enraged souls flowed around the clearing. Their talons scratched at the moonless starlight in the glade and new fire fell as the phoenix defended his mistress. Leylana shivered as the darkness crept towards her, despite the inferno building in the treetops. She knew not to leave her tower on moonless nights; that’s when the souls become unsettled and demons rise from the abyss. The runes glowed on the parchment as she flicked through the pages and she felt their warmth with each touch. Finally she found it; the moonflower charm.
Quickly pushing herself off the ground, she grabbed her staff and the book, heading further into the clearing. She looked up to the stars, the witching hour was closing in and she needed to be ready. From the corner of her eye she saw her phoenix gliding through the trees and shedding flames to keep the darkness at bay, his green feathers shimmering through the fire and leaves. Her lips curled into a smirk, remembering the day he chose to be her familiar. His cries were different then, less confident. Now his screech was fierce, brave and, for those who threatened him, terrifying.
The sound of metal on stone pulled her from her thoughts and to the far edge of the clearing where a smoldering demon of iron and ash emerged from the churning river of despair. The glow from its eyes danced through the shadow creature as it fought to gain form in the winds of the inferno. Then, as quickly as it broke free of the torrent, it crumbled to the ground and tore a golem from the ground as its vessel. Its hollow, lifeless eyes flared orange and red as the demon’s control poured across the cracks like lava through its rocky body.
Leylana tucked the book under her arm and passed her hand across the staff, sparking a purple glow from the crystal embedded into its gnarled end. She clutched the tome closer to her chest as the wind rustled her cloak and skirt, beckoning her towards the golem in front of her. At last, above the trees, she saw the stars in position; the witching hour had started. She took a step back and the demon slammed its stony arms into the ground, forcing the earth to shatter around her feet.
The stars are all she saw as she fell through the cracks into the bowels of the meadow. She saw the runes flash across the pages of the tome as it passed, further into the depths. With a curdling scream, a flurry of gold and green descended into the hole and pulled Leylana back into the clearing. The phoenix placed his mistress next to the boulder on the edge of the field, landing gracefully next to her.
“Phoenix,” she sobbed, “you have to fly away! Without the book we can’t get the Moonflowers for you. You’ve already used your last life.” She brushed down his three long crown feathers as he pressed his head into her hand, “Fly away, Phoenix. We will find another tome with the charm to find the Moonflowers and get your rejuvenation back. Just please, fly away.” The ground shook from the thundering footfalls of the golem.
Phoenix pressed his beak to Leylana’s forehead with a coo and took back to flight. He circled around, dousing the demon in his fire. The demon shrieked and pulled out of the golem, it’s smoldering eyes shimmering with hatred and pain as it formed itself into a shadow of the phoenix. Leylana sat, stunned, as she watched Phoenix and the demon clash in the sky. Phoenix’s talons tore through the demon’s false body only for the holes to vanish. Every move he made, the demon moved with him.
Laylana watched as Phoenix was matched move for move. She had to do something, but what she couldn’t think of. “Light,” she gasped, “demons can’t stand light.” She fumbled around for her staff, finally spotting it further in the clearing. Stumbling across the grass, she grabbed her staff and raised it to the sky. “Lumién!” Brilliant light filled the meadow as the demon knocked Phoenix out of the sky with a wailing cry. Everything was still as he fell to the ground. The light banished the demon and quelled the torrent of restless souls pulsing through the forest. The flames quieted as the sun started to rise on the horizon.
Leylana ran to the crumpled mass of feathers in the center of the clearing, wrapping him up in her cloak. “No no no,” her tears splattered on his beak, “what did you do you silly bird.” All the color started to fade from his feathers. The gold, orange, red, and greens slowly turned to shades of grey. He struggled to pick his head up, pressing his head to hers. Then he reached down to his tail and as the grey spread he plucked his last green tail feather and placed it in Laylana’s hand.
The dawn broke over the field and the breeze blew Phoenix away as he crumbled to ash. Sitting in the morning light and clutching the feather, she wept.