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part six.

Part Six
I hope there can be no doubt in the Reader’s mind that any dragon is faster than a fairy, even if the former is made of rock.

Whatever Joel has done in his life, he doesn’t deserve the sight that greets him as he skids to a halt outside the jungle; the sight of his own home burning to the ground. The rock-dragon’s mission had been to take revenge on Twinge – when it failed to kill her son and lover, it proceeded to the next most important thing in her heart: Epitome Jungle. Already, Joel is too late to stop the blaze, which has spread throughout the whole of the rainforest. He arrives just in time to see the retreating rear end of the rock-dragon; the beast is loudly declaring its triumph.

Joel is one of the greatest magicians in Shaman, but he is powerless to stop the flames and by the time he can get help his home will already be razed to the ground. The jungle, the wildlife, the Citadel... the magic of the deactivated fairy fort, the history... the memories of those soft days where the Amazon-Queen had sat on her thrown and thrown her thick, black hair over her shoulder and laughed her beautiful laugh... gone. All gone. The kitchen where they had shared Twinge’s home-caught rabbits together – the warm bedroom where Ewan had been born – the veranda where Makai had watchfully patrolled... how could it just disappear? How, in the space of a single evening, could the whole lot just be wiped away as if it had never been there? Every memory. Every carefully crafted piece of furniture. Soft mahoganies and charming rosewoods with fine, black-polished edges.

Of course, these thoughts flick through Joel’s mind at a tenth of the speed it takes the dear Reader to ingest them. He hesitates for only a fraction of a second and even then uses the time to wisely pull his shirt over his mouth before plunging into the heart of the flames.

Joel is used to heat, but not heat like this. Only his intense mental anguish prevents him from crying out as the fire licks his body hungrily. Sweat, tears, blood and dirt are all so inter-mingled on his skin that he wouldn’t be able to differentiate between them if he cared to pause and try. He knows the path to the Sky Citadel as well as his own body, if not better, because he examines it more often and more closely. Within minutes – maybe even seconds – he bursts into the clearing, but staggers back almost instantly when he sees how much of the beautiful wooden building has already been engulfed by flames. To enter the Citadel in this state would be madness. Joel in this state is mad.

He doesn’t stop. He doesn’t think. Only one thought fuels his mind - save something, anything. He whips up the spiral staircase faster than he ever has before and jumps onto the balcony, forced to pause only to catch his balance as the wooden slats below him shake and tilt ominously. Joel snatches up a table, drops it, then snatches up a chair. Then he drops that and snatches up Twinge’s throne. Even in this state Joel has the sense to recognise that this is far too heavy to carry out of the jungle at speed, so with a cry of frustration he drops it and grabs a beautiful hand-crafted wooden box – the present he’d given to Ewan when the boy had been born. Tucking the box under his arm, Joel turns and sprints out of the room. The fire has already consumed the stairway, so he hoists himself over the barrier and, taking care to shelter the precious box, drops twenty foot to the ground. The impact jars his legs a little, but there’s no time to sit about mooning in pain – the fire is almost onto him. Struggling back onto his feet and holding onto his prize for dear life, the carpenter flees his home for the final time.

He’d probably have made it too, if it weren’t for that damned kitten. He’s dodged most of the flames and is already pumping his legs for the final sprint out of the forest when the jaguar kit appears suddenly in his path, mewing in panic. It can’t be more than six months old. Joel skids to a halt and stares at it for a few precious seconds, struggling with the dilemma facing him – the wood or the cat. With a little roar, he drops the box and scoops the young jaguar up into his arms, tucking it into the folds of his jacket. It wriggles, but he holds it firm as he makes the final dash round the boulder, through the trees and out into safety.

Ewan and Elle are there. Winded, speechless, Joel strides up to them and thrusts the kit into his son’s arms.

      • part seven. -
      • part eight. -
    • day one -
      • part one. -
      • part two. -
      • part three. -
      • part four. -

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