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Reckoning

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The air was alive with static, buzzing and rumbling from the power they’d made. Every nerve inside her felt on fire and as she knelt beside the bodies of the people they’d killed, she killed, bile rose to her throat and she vomited beside the blackened corpse of a child. It was raining from the storm they’d made and the drops mixed with flakes of ash and settled on her skin. Ben had entered the town with her and somewhere along the way, maybe beside the smoldering remains of the town hall, they lost each other and now she was alone.

When she was six, she burnt her thumb, reaching for the baking tray. It had turned puffy and red and her mother had held her hand in water. “Oh I warned you Farah, darling, don’t do that, are you okay, does it still hurt, here let me hold your hand.” Her mother’s eyes had flashed and the pain vanished.

Now she wished she could pull the same trick but a thousandfold, pull back pain, pull back their deaths, and hold them inside herself. She wanted to burn, she wanted to die and die again and save them from her magic, that lightning that had split the sky like a bomb. She wanted to make the grass grow, like Ben did, she wanted to give life and never take it. She wanted to be six again and in her mother’s kitchen, marveling at this taste of magic, this healing touch.

Rosalind was still on the hill, and Farah could see her silhouetted against those angry clouds. She pushed herself to her feet, stumbling and weaving like a drunk. And as she approached her, Rosalind turned to meet her.

“Did you know,” she demanded, forcing the words out from her heavy tongue, “did you know the town wasn’t evacuated?”

“Of course.”

She was smiling. It was raining still and Farah could smell the smoke and that charred burning of all the bodies and Rosalind was smiling.
“How could you?”

“I knew you wouldn’t have what it’d take; it was a simple strategic calculation. Let’s be honest Farah, you’ve always been a bit squeamish.”

There was something inside her that bent, and bent and twisted till it broke.

The rain froze, hanging in the air, time still for a moment, and silence reigned till Farah screamed something broken, and Rosalind was thrown back and hit the ground, hard. Blood was dripping from her lips and Farah grabbed the front of her coat and pulled her upward.

She grasped for her knife (Saul’s knife he had lent her for backup in his overprotective way) and held it to Rosalind’s throat.

Rosalind’s magic rose up to defend herself, energy bursting from her fingertips, and Farah swatted it away. Magic was emotion and nothing could stop her when her pain was like this.

“Are you going to kill me, Farah?” Rosalind gasped out, eyes wide with something mad and crooked lurking in the corners, “go on then do it.”

The knife was heavy in her grip, her fingers numb with cold rain, and she hesitated.

“You never could, you coward, you were always weak, and you wonder why I lied, this is why. You don’t have what it takes, I did what was necessary. If we hadn’t destroyed Aster Dell and ended it here all the realms would have burned,” she spat out.

Farah paused, then turned the knife and swung the butt to Rosalind's skull. It made a dull thump, and Rosalind crumpled to the ground. “I’d rather we have burned,'' she said, and Farah sat down beside her teacher’s unconscious body. The ground was cold and she could taste the vomit in her mouth. Somewhere in the distance, she could hear Saul calling her name, Ben not far behind him. There was ash on her knuckles and as she sat it grew wet and dark in the rain. Somewhere inside her that broken thing bent back slightly into shape. The war was over, Rosalind had made sure of that.