There's no prompt this week, so let's dive right into the story.
When I come to my senses I am sprawled under Tian’s still body. For a moment, I lie still, cushioned within the softness of the flames-that-are-not-flames, enwrapped by someone who is now as much part of me as the hair on my head. If I had thought I loved Tian before, now there is no word for how I feel. In fact, it’s so big I can’t keep it inside and I laugh. I have never heard such a joyous sound.
Tian stirs and sits up. I am content to lie and gaze up at him. He has never been more lovely.
“My prince,” Tian whispers.
“My prince, too. There are many princes.”
“But only one of them is utterly perfect. Only one of them is mine.”
“No, two are perfect, and the other is mine.”
Strangely it is not difficult to accept Tian’s praise, to believe that I am perfect. Here, in this moment, I know it’s true. No one has ever been more perfect than he and I. We are perfect, our love is perfect, the moment is perfect.
Tian toys with my hair and if I had been a cat I would have purred.
“You have such beautiful hair,” he murmurs. “It’s always so shiny. It doesn’t tangle like mine.”
“I like yours,” I say and raise my hand to bury my fingers in its softness. “It is like the wing of a raven – soft and…perfect.”
Tian pulls a lock of hair over his shoulder and studies it. He makes a non-committal sound as he flicks it back again. “It’s okay as hair goes, I suppose, but yours…. Yours is a shower of light, like when moonlight pours through a window.”
“You’re very poetic.”
“Don’t you think the situation calls forth poetry?”
Tian’s words bring our situation back into focus and I start. I see from the expression in Tian’s eyes he has had the same thought.
“We should go.”
“Indeed we should.” Tian makes no attempt to move.
“We should get up.”
“Tian.” I bat playfully at his chest. “We can’t stay here forever.”
“Because we’re in the middle of a fire and at any point it could start burning us now we’ve done what it wanted us to do.”
Tian glances around fearfully. “Do you think it will? Burn us?”
“No, I don’t think so, but we should still go. Our families await and the Mother knows what that awful man is telling them.”
“He’s not awful; not really, at least he didn’t use to be.”
“What changed him?”
“I’m not quite sure. No one has told me outright, but from what I’ve heard he was in love with someone whom he thought was Druach. He persuaded her to take the flame.”
“The flame consumed her and he’s blamed himself ever since, become twisted and angry, bitter to everyone.”
“He would have sent me into the fire, knowing he’d got it wrong once before, and that I really didn’t want it? Did he force her too, like me? Did he drug her with magic and force her to do what he wanted?”
Anger seizes me as what was done to me comes back in a wave of bitterness. Tian steadies me with a hand splayed across my chest.
“He loved her, and she loved him. There would have been no compulsion. False confidence maybe. Uncertainty swept aside. He wanted her to be like him. Isn’t that why you brought me here?”
“Yes. No. I…it’s complicated.”
“I should have died. I’m not Druach. I should never have taken the flames, and beside that, they have never taken two before. It’s impossible.”
“Yet here we are.”
“Yes.” Tian smiled and there is no censure in his eyes, no anger, only a gentle rebuff. “But you didn’t know that’s how it would end. You were told it couldn’t happen, that it would kill me, and yet you had me do it; follow you.”
“I….” He had me there. “I understand,” I say, nodding, “but I wonder if he had the Mother inside his head urging him to do it, too.”
“Is that what happened?” Tian’s eyes widen and I smile.
“Something like that. Come, let us return to our families. Perhaps we can even help the Druid.”
“Perhaps even that,” Tian says. “Didn’t she say nothing is impossible?”
“I’m not sure I believe that, but I’m prepared to try.”
Tian helps me to my feel, then holds tightly to my hand as we walk through the flames. We have no idea where the entrance is, or how far we are from it. This doesn’t worry us at all. We know we’ll find the way. We will always find the way.
And now it's time for your adventure continuing through the other flashers