I placed my hands on the smooth scales of Sayeh’s back and took a deep breath. As I let it out, I tried to call back the stone that ran over her body, but it resisted. I pulled harder, fighting against an unseen force. Her body had been wrapped in the stone for too long, and it didn’t want to let go.
It looks like a firefly, and it pings around the cave like a pinball machine, and then flies straight at me and disappears into my abdomen. Fire burns inside of me. It runs through my veins like lava. The pain is excruciating, and I’m sure I must explode. My eyes bulge, my muscles tense, and my bones strain as my body fights against the invasion.
Reacting to the flame’s loss, several geysers burst open at once, raising the temperature within to melting point. Thunder and rumbling reverberated off the walls. Cracks grew across the bridge and the ceiling as liquid earth simmered and roiled around us.
I heard the sound of my heart shattering, taking with it the last glint of hope. I fell to my knees, letting out a howl from the depth of my soul. Selene cradled me in her arms as we rocked back and forth together. Sayeh was lost to me forever.
Her hands move in the air and I feel invisible fingers shape the glowing stone in a way that feels familiar. It takes but a moment to realize that I feel the same when working wet clay, but she is shaping scorching lava into a basalt bridge across the cavern. There, as here, the smallest movement affects thickness and form.
Summoning is not a pretty art. It is painful for the spirit to be ripped through the ether at someone’s whim. The only way it stops hurting is to go where it’s called. That’s the reason for the circle. If something is likely to arrive angry and sore, best you welcome it in a cage.
I turned to leave as a cool breeze blew through the cave with a haunting howl, sending a violent shudder through me. The curse. The curse is now mine to bear, I thought as I made my way back up and out of the cavern.
The things I did for my family. That made me remember the words burned on Tuttook’s hind leg. Words I’d seen before on an ancient scripture. A truth I’d come to learn since my return to the Pantheon. A truth we’d need to remember to finish our quest successfully.
They still saw the illusion, and I had a feeling no matter how many times they walked across the bridge, they’d end up at the beginning. “You have to trust me. I think this is part of a test. We have to trust each other and have enough faith to get through each challenge.”