The ball of fire spat out another ember, which landed on Gema’s forearm, tickling her skin. The fire was nothing more than a distraction to her at this moment – the beauty of it taking away her mother’s words.
“-say it’s nothing more than a drill. Nothing to worry about. Ha, Sydney was so proud of her museum and its security. ‘No one would dare break into the place. My husband made sure the building was fitted with the latest systems from Lost Inc.’,” Cameo Waterstone’s voice mocked the words of her friend, waving the dessert spoon in her hand out of habit. “Or whatever that company is named. I’ve heard rumours. See, I’ve heard rumours saying that – Gema Waterstone, are you even listening to me?”
At the mention of her name Gema looked up and across the table at her mother. The spoon in her mother’s hand was raised, the food’s journey to Cameo’s mouth delayed. Her mother wasn’t looking at Gema but more so at the small Ping-Pong shaped fireball that was hovering an inch above Gema’s open palm.
Cameo looked as though she was preparing herself to shout at her daughter. But after a deep breath, her facial features relaxed slightly, the corner of her mouth twitching. “Put that away. You should know better than to have that thing at the dinner table. And if I find the smallest of scorch marks on this table, I will personally…”
Gema stopped listening to her mother, as she concentrated, and so she did not know exactly what her mother would do if she did find a scorch mark on her beloved table. Gema curled her fingers into a fist and then opened it. The fireball was gone, leaving no trace that it was there a few moments ago.
“- I did have a look at the museum’s designs. Ridiculous. I told her that she should have hired my team. A building of my design would’ve meant that-“
Gema pulled up her legs, tucking them under her chin, as she stared at the pattern carved in the legs of the table. Her thoughts drifted to events that’d happened in the previous months. Not events that’d happened in the world – not about the break in at one of the most secure museums, not of the recent air shuttles explosions, or of murdered dukes.
Her thoughts consisted of her relationship with her mother over the previous months.
“-hardly even touched your dessert. I’ve spent time and money in making sure you received a small delicacy after a fine meal. Think of the less fortunate who have never dreamt of the life we live.” Cameo Waterstone took another small mouthful of her dessert. Gema couldn’t help but think that with such small mouthfuls her mother would be sitting there for the next fortnight.
“You’ve spent time and money on what? Chocolate fondant? When was the last time you actually cooked something? Actually, when was the last time you picked up a frying pan? If I recall, Anna was the one who prepared every meal I’ve ate today. Anna was the one who’s prepared every meal that I’ve had in the past few years when we weren’t eating out in a… a restaurant that is so exclusive and expensive that it’s practically empty!” Months of bottled anger was beginning to explode. Anger at her mother. At her mother who had blamed, and unloved her. “And money? Well, you have plenty of money. You practically advertise that we’re rich!” Gemma’s arm flung out, as if to point out the building they were in and the furnishings of the home. “And the less fortunate? What less fortunate? Have you forgotten which planet we live on? Even those who live in Petra are happy and wealthy! Oh, wait, of course, you must be talking about Albyn’s sister planet, Ear-” Gemma broke off as a knife flew past her right ear and lodged itself in the wall behind her. Gemma looked behind her, at the knife and then at her mother. If this had happened a few months before, Gemma would’ve been shocked at her mother throwing cutlery at her. But recently, events such as these were becoming more popular.
“Gemma Waterstone! You do not talk to me like that! Do I make myself clear?” Cameo didn’t wait for an answer. “I don’t think-”
“No! That’s the problem! You don’t think! You don’t think at all! And that’s why Dad left you! You just do your own thing, not even caring about everyone else. All you care about is yourself. Have you ever, ever asked me what I want? Pandora’s parents take her out to regular outings. She’s been to the Chaos theme parks twice this past month! You don’t even… You don’t care about anyone else at all! You…” Gemma was running out words to say. She was running out of spiteful, hurtful words. Running out of words that should make her mother feel as though someone was stabbing her with needles over and over again in her heart. “When have you ever cared about me? You’re always busy. Always! With what, designing? Yeah, right. And these past few months all you ever do is… blame me. Blame me for things that are happening to you!” Gemma’s mind was reeling and her hands which were clenched into fists, loosened.
The irises of Gemma’s eyes went from green to gold. Only for a brief moment. Cameo was too angered to notice.
A ball of fire formed in her left palm. And another in her right. The colours of the flames seemed to swirl and both fireballs grew, larger and larger.
Gemma hit the table in front of her in fury. Not with a fist but with the ball of fire. Her palm started to sting where it had slammed against the table. She outstretched her right arm, where the second fireball hovered, as large as an apple. She outstretched an arm out to her mother.
“You’ve always been jealous that I’m so much stronger than you.” As she spoke, she moved her left arm away from the table and closer to herself. The fireball was gone, leaving marks on the table. Another fireball began to appear in Gemma’s left palm, replacing its predecessor. “I mean, fire is so much better isn’t it? Powerful, I guess. Stronger. Much more convenient. Then your skill.” Gemma’s voice was almost snarling, her eyes reflecting the repulsion inside her. Repulsion at her mother. At this weak Guardian. “Designing, isn’t it, Cameo? You must be so…” Gemma began to take a step forward, dropping her hand down, no longer needing to threaten. “So, proud of your artistic skills. Such a shame isn’t it? That I have to kill you.” Gemma grinned, and extended her arm once more. The ball of fire was larger than Gemma’s hand and growing more still.
Cameo laughed. “With what? Fire? Are you insane? It won’t kill me. And you’re too stupid to understand how to control it. Just a stupid idiot child that has no ide-”
“Oh, I doubt your daughter is an idiot. She is a powerful asset. I have plans for her. You, of course, are an idiot. Has anyone mentioned that to you?”
Cameo blinked once and then realised her daughter was asking a question and expected an answer. It seemed strange to be asked a question. “Er, no.” And at that moment she realised, it wasn’t her daughter speaking to her. It was a being older than herself.
A being that Cameo feared.
“Oh. That is a shame. I would call over one of the neighbours to tell you that you’re an idiot. But they might interfere with my plans.” Gemma paused, remembering that this wasn’t the direction of conversation she wanted. Cameo took this moment to arm herself with a knife and stood up. Gemma flicked her fingers in a down motion. The fireballs were gone. Cameo’s wrists and ankles became bound to her chair; she couldn’t see what it was that was restraining her.
“I do not plan to kill you with fire. Your daughter is not strong enough. Not yet anyway. Of course, you are a Guardian.” While she was speaking, she had moved to stand behind Cameo’s chair. Cameo couldn’t help but notice that the way her daughter spoke seemed as though she had a lot to say but couldn’t organise it mentally. “I can’t stab you.” Gemma made a motion as though she was stabbing herself in the heart. “I can’t shoot you.” She made a motion in which she pretended to shoot herself in the head. “I can’t rip of your head.” She didn’t bother to make a gesture this time. “I can torture you. Which is fun. But I don’t have the time. So what I can do, is, kill you.”
And as she laughed, she shot a ball of fire at one of the walls of the dining room. It was the size of a cannonball and was followed by another and another, aimed at different directions in the room.
“The place goes up in the flames,” Gemma’s voice was soft and was as though she was singing. Then she dropped her voice to a whisper, “Along with the body of Cameo Waterstone.”
She laughed again and her irises changed colour once more. This time to a purple that stayed.
Gemma Waterstone’s body fell back, and where it was once standing, stood the figure of a tall, ageless girl, no older than 19.
Gemma’s head was throbbing – a pain which Gemma was familiar with. It was a pain that appeared when she had overused her power. As if her body was sending a message, telling her that she had used too much of her skill. She was also exhausted, her wrists ached as did her back. She also felt as if she was going to be sick. She pushed the nausea down, pushing herself up and pressing a hand to her head.
The room was on fire – walls engulfed by flames but Gemma couldn’t smell anything. She couldn’t smell the smoke or the familiar burning smell. It was almost as though her sense of smell was gone. The fire seemed eerie – incomplete.
Her mother was pinned against a wall, the fire burning but it stayed clear of Cameo. Two inches between her mother and the fire. Two inches between Cameo and a fire that wouldn’t kill her. Two inches between a nearly immortal Guardian and undying creation.
It added to the strangeness of the surroundings.
The girl restrained Cameo, her hand pushing against Cameo’s neck. The same girl who had slipped into Gemma, possessing her. The girl had reached inside Gemma’s mind, extracting thoughts and memories. Gemma had felt her, rooting around her mind.
It had been a two way road. Gemma had been able to access the girl’s thoughts and memories but it had been overwhelming. If Gemma didn’t know better, she would’ve said there was centuries of memories in the girl’s mind, not a single one lost. But the only thing Gemma had processed was the girl’s name.
It was a name that Gemma had heard before but couldn’t remember where she had heard it.
Cameo glanced over the shoulder of Blaze, her eyes resting on the sight of her daughter. For a moment, Gemma hoped that her mother would be happy to see her daughter alive and breathing. But Gemma thought wrong.
Cameo’s eyes hardened, her face distorting into a look of disgust mingled with hatred. Gemma took a deep breath and stepped forward; a step closer to her mother and to Blaze.
“Stay there!” Gemma didn’t recognise her mother’s voice. She blinked twice as her mind registered that it wasn’t Blaze who had shouted the words, but her mother. “I should’ve killed you when I had the chance. I should’ve destroyed you when you were a child. I should’ve burnt your dead corpse and told everyone that I no longer had a daughter!” Cameo was shouting the words by then, shouting at her daughter, forgetting that Blaze was holding her by the neck. “I should’ve kill-” Cameo choked as Blaze pressed on her neck, as if demanding that her presence did not go ignored.
“Killed her how exactly? She’s one of your kind. Would you wait for her to die of old age? I’m sure you yourself would’ve died by then. Or did you plan to send a child into a non-existent battle. Did you forget that Guardians are the closest to immortality?” Blaze spoke to Cameo, ignoring Gemma. Gemma felt that to Blaze she was insignificant. “Well, I’ve changed that fact.” This statement seemed to have been said more to herself that to Cameo or Gemma. Blaze continued, talking to Cameo again. “And if you did kill her, I would’ve been less merciful. I would’ve given you a slow and torturous death where you would cry out to the God for weeks. And that God that you believe in, even He wouldn’t have been able to help you.” Cameo stared at Blaze, bewildered and slightly frightened. There was not much that could frighten Cameo Waterstone.
“But you didn’t kill your daughter, and so, as a reward, your death will be much faster.” The hand that didn’t hold Cameo by the neck reached into the pockets of Blaze’s jacket and drew out a knife. The blade was impossibly thin and carved in the handle of the knife were an incantation of an old language. Cameo’s eyes widened in recognition.
“You… you’re going to kill me? But, Gemma… Gemma’s still young. I did everything you asked… I brought her up… I… I… Argh!” Cameo screamed as Blaze cut into Cameo’s arm, drawing blood.
Gemma took another step forward and another as the fire in the room grew, as the heat in the room grew. Nothing affected Gemma – not the fire nor the heat nor the smoke. It would never and should never affect the Guardian of Fire.
“Stop! You can’t kill her! I don’t care how much of a bitch she is – she’s my mother!”
Gemma didn’t see the chair coming until it hit her in the head. She heard a crack and feared her neck had snapped. But she was fine other than the fact the pain in her head had increased. She realised that Blaze was staring at Gemma, shocked.
Blaze’s head whipped back to face Cameo. She drew away her hand from Cameo’s neck. Cameo dropped to her knees, the flames licking at her feet. The entire room was on fire and was probably spreading across the building. No one was scathed by the fire.
Cameo took in a deep breath followed by another. And another. And another.
Blaze punched the older woman in the face.
Cameo looked up at Blaze who still held the knife. “It… It shouldn’t exist. It’s… Where… wher- It shouldn’t exist.”
Blaze raised the knife. “Well, I shouldn’t exist either, should I, Cameo? I would’ve kept you alive for Inabikari but he – he has other plans at the moment.” Blaze plunged the knife deep into Cameo’s chest.
Cameo’s last words were nothing more than a scream.
Blaze turned around to face Gemma. “She was a...‘bitch’ as you put it. But she was interfering with my plans.” Blaze paused before continuing. “I suggest you run. Stay with your father maybe. I also suggest that you don’t breathe a word about this. Especially if you value your existence.”
Gemma had nothing to say to Blaze. She nodded to say that she understood. And then she ran. She ran from the dining room. She ran through the flames and out of the house.
Gemma kept running until she reached the end of the street, where she stopped to regain her breath. She didn’t look back at the house, not even to see if Blaze had left the house.
Then it hit her.
She remembered who exactly Blaze was.
Her mind reeled back to what she had read in a History lesson years back.
Blaze. The last member of the royal family that had ruled Albyn over two centuries ago. There were so many rumours about the last heir of the throne. Some said that she had killed her entire family for the throne. There were some rumours that she had died, no older than 19. The most absurd rumour the Fire Guardian had heard was from a crazy old man in the market, who claimed that Blaze had been Human.
Which could never be true. The royal family was a bloodline so pure that it went right to back to the beginning of time and there had never been a member of the family that wasn’t a Guardian.
Gemma sank to the ground, leaning against a tree, trying to make sense of what had just happened. She was alone and all she knew was to go to her father.
The Guardian of Fire opened a fist she hadn’t known she’d been clenching and a ball of fire hovered over her palm, comforting her.