The morning sunlight filtered cheerily through the window, though in no way was it masking my dread for the day.
After getting dressed, I sleepily made my way down stairs. “Mariah?” I called, clutching the diamond holding a flickering fire around my neck. “Mariah, are you up?”
Downstairs was just how I had left it the night before. I boiled the water and started to spoon sugar into a mug, getting my tea ready. Down the hall, Mariah was no doubt still snoring in bed.
Adding some milk, I sniffed the fragrance of the tea, wafting up to my face, surrounding my head. It was so fresh, almost minty…
It woke me up, and sent a jolt of alarm through my body. Mariah never sleeps in. She’s a very light sleeper. She always cleans the kitchen before bed, and leaves a blooming yellow acacia flower over the threshold of the house, claiming it to be warding off danger. So why wasn’t it there?
“Mariah?” I called down the hallway. Creeping forward, I fluttered my wings nervously. “I-I made you some eggs and cheese, if you want to come out and get them..” I called, hoping she was just caught up in some early morning reading. Tentatively, I nudged the door open. The bed was made, as if Mariah never even made it to bed. I kicked the door shut soundlessly with my toe and crept across the room.
Suddenly, cold hands gripped me from behind. I screamed, and whipped around.
It was Mariah. I was about to relax when all the muscles of my body seized up again. It was kind of Mariah, a skeletal tired version of Mariah.
“Phoenix,” She whispered urgently. A loud bang came from the bathroom. I screamed, squirming out of Mariah’s grip.
“Phoenix, listen to me! I’m the read Mariah! That lady last night was an infiltrator, just a dummy with a potion! You’ve got to leave this house right away, don’t let them get to the Book. Head for Greenstom, I’ve got a message hidden there, you’ll know where to find it if you know me,” she hissed, emphasizing the ‘me’ “They’ll probably get me, but don’t worry!”
She took my face in her bony hands, looking into my eyes, and I knew she wasn’t lying. “You’ve got horrible events waiting for you, Phoenix. Please, don’t go hiding or running, don’t let curiosity or passion take control of you! You’re full of fire, and anger, and fear. Don’t let it take control of you,”
The door splintered open, and a monster three times Mariah’s size stepped out, it’s eyes hollow, it’s mouth teethless. I stared in wonder until it started for us.
“Need…recharging…” it grumbled, reaching for Mariah.
“Phoenix, fly!” Mariah shouted at me. “Don’t stop flying, don’t look back at me, just go!”
She pushed me toward the window, I stumbling numbly. “But–but what’s it going to do to you?”
She made a grim face. “Leech my life force. There’s nothing you can do!” Mariah threw herself at the monster, brandishing a lamp. “Just go!”
I took one more look at the creature and leapt out the window. Determinedly, I surged forward, flapping my powerful wings, her screams echoing behind me. I knew I would regret it dearly.