I waited as the potion was offered to the others, watching with apprehension at the thought of drinking something from the tribal leader. I had made a promise, though. A promise I intended to keep. If there was something I could do to help, I would. This might not have been the vacation I had envisioned, but I’d learned that life rarely goes as planned, especially when it involved this many goddesses. Hmm, ok, if it involved any immortal, it could be chaotic. I looked from face to face and realized that I loved the chaos. It kept life interesting.
A gnarled hand holding a gourd filled with a dark liquid was suddenly thrust in front of my face and pulled me from my thoughts. I took it gingerly, holding it away from my body. I’m not sure what I thought it would do to me before I drank it, but I was wary of the magical elixir all the same. I held my head up when I realized I had already agreed to go all in, and it was necessary for our quest. I’d drink almost anything if it would help Sayah and get everyone safely off this island.
I needed to do this, and I knew it. More than that, though, I wanted to do this. I couldn’t stand the thought of any animal suffering, especially that beautiful dragon. Taking a deep breath, I clutched the strange makeshift cup and brought it to my lips, tilting it over my mouth before I had any more time to second-guess myself. Grimacing from the taste, I quickly handed the gourd back to the tribal leader so I wouldn’t drop it.
My vision blurred and a wave of dizziness washed over me, then was gone. “Well, that was kind of disappointing,” I said, mostly to myself because it suddenly seemed like no one had any interest in me or what I was doing.
The others had formed a little group of their own, I couldn’t see what they were doing, but they seemed to forget about me as soon as I handed the potion off. The sight made me feel like an outsider. Just when I was starting to feel like I was a part of the group, I was watching from the outside again.
Hurt that everyone seemed to have turned their backs on me, I wandered over to a tree, intending to lean against it while I waited for the magic to take effect. I stopped short, though, when I spotted the fairy ring. It was perfect. I’d only ever seen one other, and it couldn’t compare to the one laid out before me now. Carefully stepping over the mushrooms, I stood in the very center of the circle and wondered if there was power here. I’d have to ask when this was all finished, and we had Sayeh’s heartfire.
Hmm…I bet heartfire is very powerful. I mean, it pretty much had to be, didn’t it? It could sustain a beast as powerful as a dragon. I was powerful too. I could almost feel the power growing within me. I wondered what would happen if I were to find the heartfire first. This island didn’t seem like it was very big. It probably wouldn’t even be that hard to find.
My feet seemed to have a mind of their own because I was getting farther and farther from the others before I even realized I had decided to look for the heartfire on my own.
Why shouldn’t I have it? I’ve been through so much, didn’t I deserve a little good luck and fortune for a change?
I was moving faster and faster as the compulsion to find the heartfire grew. Bushes whipped me in the face and grabbed at my legs as I ran. The pain barely registered through the need to be the first to find it.
The island around me seemed to blur, and I suddenly stood at the entrance to a massive cavern. I spun around, making sure the others hadn’t followed me and was reassured when I found the tunnel behind me empty.
I did it, and I did it alone. All of that power would be mine. I didn’t need anyone else. The others were weak, and they didn’t deserve this power.
I stumbled as I stepped into the cavern and then paused. Why did the others want to find the heartfire? My mind seemed cloudy, and the memories slipped through my fingers every time I tried to grasp them. The need to have the heartfire washed over me again, and I slammed my hands out to the side, pressing them against the cold clay walls of the tunnel, trying to keep myself from rushing into the cavern.
Everything felt wrong. Pain stabbed through my head as I tried to hold on to my swirling thoughts..
“Sayah!” I gasped as the memory slammed into me, and I fell to my knees. She needed the heartfire. I couldn’t take it from her. “What the hell am I doing?”
The realization of what I had almost done washed over me. My eyes filled with tears as I buried my face in my hands in shame. A deep rumbling sound vibrated through me, and I looked up to see that I was no longer in the tunnel, but in a clearing. I watched in amazement as a beautiful stone pathway formed in front of me. An ethereal voice carried upon the breeze sang out:
Hear the whisper not seen
An abyss seen not heard
One pebble at a time
She the one aims for an end
Only to reach the beginning
My snakes hissed incessantly in my ears, urging me to move. I reacted instantly, running for the path ahead of me—and slammed into the tribal leader.
I backed away and looked around, confused. “What happened?” It seemed like a long time had passed, and I felt somehow displaced. “How long has it been since I took the potion?”
The tribal leader remained silent, his face void of emotion.
I rubbed my forehead, trying to remember. I wasn’t sure why, but I was surprised to see that everyone was still here. “I feel like I had to hurry to get somewhere important.” The need to move was almost overwhelming, but the feeling of being alone wrapped around me like a heavy blanket. It was a familiar weight I was tired of carrying.
“Well, we are trying to find the heartfire,” Athena said playfully.
I nodded and backed away, looking around. I wish I had half the strength she had. I reached up and ran my hand through my hair, letting a snake come to the surface and wrap around my fingers as I tried to recall what seemed so important.
Shrugging it away, I stepped next to Athena and linked my fingers with hers as we waited for the others to wake up with their portions of the map.