Victor focused on the hurt he had within him—the people who had hurt him and the ones he loved. He focused on the pain, the damage, and the hatred he had for the ones who took his brother, his sister. And it felt good.
He threw his arms down at the floor. A blast of fire shot from each, hitting the floor and launching him into the air. He twisted his arms around and landed. Flames poured out in a circular blast around his landing, sending his opponent backstepping to stay clear of the fire. The flames danced and licked the air.
"Well done, Victor," said Master Tavish. "I have never seen anyone perform the firestep with such power at your age. You're proving to be a very powerful fire mage."
Victor stood straight and then bowed his head at Master Tavish. "Thank you, Master."
The boy he had attacked was still patting his clothes to put out the flames.
"Now, let's give it another try, but this time, Victor, you will be defending the firestep," said Master Tavish.
"Yes sir," said Victor. He stood in a ready position, with his arms forward, and hands poised. He kept one leg forward while bouncing on the back. His opponent, Kevin, was another boy, about his age, but a little pudgy. Kevin didn't seem like he wanted to be there. He didn't commit himself to his training, and everything fire-related seemed to scare the kid. It didn't make sense why he wouldn't give his all to defend his people. Maybe if there were more people like me, we wouldn't have to continue fighting, thought Victor.
Kevin finally got into a ready position himself. He spread his arms and stomped his front foot before throwing his hands down as Victor did, but his actions lacked power and confidence. Maybe Kevin had nothing to fuel his magic, or maybe he just didn't know how to channel that anger yet. Either way, it was pathetic.
Small spouts of fire shot from the boy's hands and he jumped forward in a way that made Victor think the flames didn't actually propel him at all. Kevin landed and a small flame licked forward from each foot before he lost his balance and fell over.
Victor couldn't leave it there though. He needed to show that he could defend as well as attack. Victor bent forward while swinging a foot behind him. He used the momentum to lift himself off of the ground in a front flip, scooping up the small flame produced by Kevin. He multiplied its power, wrapping himself in flames as he spun. Then, with a fist to the ground, he landed with another firestep, slamming down. The fire poured out again and crawled across the floor in a circle around him. Kevin lept to his feet, dancing to get the flames off of his clothes.
"Kevin, you need to work on yours," said Master Tavish. "Remember, you need to focus your anger. Don't you have anything that makes you angry?"
"Yeah, I guess," said Kevin. "Sometimes my brother hides my things."
Master Tavish gave an annoyed look. "You can't think of anything more than that. We need real anger to fuel our magic, especially when we're learning."
"I'll try," said Kevin. It was pathetic that he even pretended to be a future fire mage. He didn't deserve the title with his lack of commitment. Time spent trying to convince him to try was time that could have been used to teach new techniques or combat training.
Kevin focused on his hands with his forehead creased. He seemed to be focusing much harder than before. He was quiet as he stared at his outstretched arm. It was pointed at Victor, but Victor wasn't scared in the slightest. Kevin could hardly cook dinner with his magic, let alone hurt someone like Victor.
Then, Kevin's face seemed to change. Concentration changed to what looked like genuine anger. Had he found something to truly provoke his magic?
All of a sudden, there was an explosion that tore through the roof, lighting Kevin in a flame that rivaled any that Victor had seen before. Kevin screamed with fury. But unlike a controlled flame of fire magic, the fire ate at his skin. His clothes burned in seconds and his fleshed turned black and bubbled. When the flames left him, all that remained was a charred husk.
But the fire didn't fizzle out when it left Kevin. Instead, the pillar of fire continued through the roof of the building, tearing the hole in the roof in a straight line behind Kevin. It claimed several more students as it tore the building in half.
"What is—" said Master Tavish. She was too confused to finish her question.
The fire finally stopped. Victor stared at the wreckage. The charred bodies of his classmates, the burning hole in the roof of the building. How did Kevin manage such a powerful spell, and why did it kill him? He looked at Master Tavish. "Was that Kevin?"
To answer his question, the earth shook for a moment. Dust poured from the holes in the ruined building. The earth shook again, almost knocking Victor off of his feet. Then, he heard a thunderous unnatural roar.
His eyes went wide as he looked at Master Tavish. "Get out of here," she said. "I'll handle this."
"No way," said Victor. "I can help."
Master Tavish didn't take the time to respond. She ran through the front door and looked to the sky to find the source of the destruction. Victor followed.
There, at the center of Brighton was a monster so tall that it dwarfed the tallest buildings of the town. It was covered in black scales with shimmering purple fins the size of hills hanging from its back. It stretched its head to the sky and screamed once again.
"What is that?" asked Victor.
"I don't know," said Master Tavish. "But whatever it is, it is much stronger than us. If you choose to help, you may end up like your classmates."
"I won't," said Victor. "That thing doesn't know what it's in for."
Master Tavish nodded and darted off in the direction of the giant. Victor wasted no time, following her.
The town was already in shambles. Buildings were bent, with bricks smashed to dust. Victor could see neighboring streets where his view should have been blocked by walls.
The monster's path was clear. The path of destruction extended in a line from the academy pointing straight at the creature.
In the distance, Victor could see blasts of flame showing that other fire mages were already trying to stop the onslaught. The giant looked unaffected. But there was something else in the sky near the monster's head. Floating in the sky was a lizard the size of the academy itself—a dragon. A pink glow streamed from the dragon to the giant monster.
The monster lumbered on without slowing at all. It threw a claw down as it screamed and walls and roofs were thrown across the city.
Victor caught sight of Master Tavish looking back at him as they ran. Was she making sure I was up for this?_ thought Victor. He didn't care. He was going to fight. It was what he had been training for, to save his people.
They reached the base of the monster, the tail dragged through the road in front of them, digging a trench through cobblestones and dirt. Master Tavish ran under it, heading toward the monster's feet. Victor didn't want to just cripple the monster though. He was powerful. He was a faster learner than most. He wanted to destroy that monster and show everyone what he was capable of.
The tail swung and Victor jumped to land on it. He used a blast of fire to adjust his balance as he landed on the moving appendage. Just before it hit a neighboring building, Victor climbed up the tail. It smashed the stone wall and Victor barely held on to a ridge of scales. He gained his footing again and continued up the monster's back. It was easier the further he got from the tail, but it was still a moving scaly surface.
Victor reached the first of its purple fins, grabbing the individual bones that supported it as handholds. The fin stretched out far above him, blocking out the sun and hiding him in shadow. Still, he continued.
Victor poked his head up past the top of the fin to see a fire blast coming straight for him. It was no doubt an attack from a Human that didn't know Victor was up there. Victor ducked behind the fin as the fireball slammed into the creature. He could feel the impact and then the heat as the wave washed over the creature. But the monster was unphased. The fire rippled along its skin like a fire on stone.
It's immune to fire magic? thought Victor. He looked up at the creature's head, and fear began to sneak into his mind.
He took a deep breath, gritted his teeth, and thought, No. Everyone has a weakness.
Victor continued his climb. He stood on the lowest fin and had to jump to reach the second. With one hand blasting beneath him to give him a higher jump, the other hand grabbed the next fin. He held on tight, pulling his body up to where he had a better grip on the bony fin.
As he climbed he looked down at the city. Several blocks in the center of the city were ruined, but the path of destruction didn't continue to the edge of the city. Did the monster jump into the center of the city? thought Victor. How can anything be that strong?
More blasts of fire slammed into the creature. Several more hit in the same spot—a concerted effort. The monster reacted to those. It screamed and lifted one of its legs high into the air. It slammed the foot down and a tidal wave of water materialized from the impact.
Victor watched as the water ripped through more buildings, sweeping up fire mages and civilians in one fell swoop.
Water magic? I thought it used fire magic on the academy.
Victor watched in confusion. But he couldn't give up. If there was a way to stop this thing it would have to be through its head. Victor screamed at the creature and continued his climb.
He reached the top of the next fin when the rain started. Quicker than any storm he had seen roll in, this one turned a sunny day into an instant downpour. The scales were slippery under Victor's hands, but he kept climbing, using the occasional fire blast to adjust his hands when they would slip.
He was almost there, almost at the point where he could make a devastating blow to the creature. As he looked up to see the lightning-framed head of the monster, he realized that there was someone already up near the creature's head. Riding on the dragon that was following the monster was a figure in a red cloak and hood. The pink glow that Victor had seen earlier was pouring out of the figure's hands.
Victor reached the lower neck, only progressing by pushing himself up on the bone spikes that lined the creature's spine. When he got close enough to be heard, he yelled over the wind and rain to the figure. "What are you doing? We need to kill it!"
The figure looked at Victor as if confused. The pink magic flickered at the distraction. "We can't destroy it," said the man. "It's too useful a tool. We need to control it."
"What are you talking about? It's destroying Brighton!"
"It's a small price to pay to have this monster on our side. Imagine what we could accomplish with it!" said the figure.
Victor looked at the man confused. He wasn't making sense. There is no way to control a creature, especially of that size. The man must be insane. Victor didn't have time for the lunatic. He climbed to the top of the creature's head and leaned over one of the monster's eyes. The boy's head and chest hung over what had to have been at least a hundred-foot drop. But before Victor could act, the monster's eyes went white. A moment later, the monster swung its head side to side. Before Victor was thrown from the creature's head, he focused on all of the people who looked down on him—the people who never thought he'd be good enough—and let the fire blast out of him. It engulfed the creature's eye and brow. Victor watched the burns form on its skin as he fell.
"Help!" he yelled, turning his attention to the man riding the dragon. The man looked down at Victor and then back at the monster, doubling his efforts with the pink magic.
Victor fell. The wind rushed around him and the monster screamed. With the howl, came a rush of terrible wind. Out of nowhere, a tornado formed, grabbing him up in it. Bricks and wood planks swirled around him, as well as other figures. Bodies? thought Victor. He breathed heavily and scraped at the air that spun him in circles. He forced out blasts of fire to try and push him free of the cyclone, but it was too strong. Then, all at once, it dissipated.
Victor struggled to right himself and gain his bearings. He was rocketing toward the ground two or three times as fast as he had been before. The ground grew closer and closer. He closed his eyes anticipating the impact.
The wind was knocked out of him as he changed direction. He struggled to breathe as he opened his eyes. Red flames lit his vision as he looked up at the face of Master Tavish. She held him in her arms and slammed into the ground with an impact that caused her to scream out in pain.
Her grip on Victor loosened as the two skidded to a halt in the ruined city street. Victor lifted his dust-covered face to look at his master. She laid there in the road, bloody and broken, unable or unwilling to prop herself up, she said, "You need to get out of here."
"I need to kill that thing," said Victor, his voice shaky despite his intended tone.
"No," said Master Tavish. "The battle is already lost. Get out of here. Bring word to Castille before the monster gets there too."
"But," Victor said. He didn't know why he stopped. Then he realized. A shadow loomed over them. He looked up and saw the massive foot of the monster, coming right for them.
"Go!" cried Master Tavish.
Victor stood and blasted the bottom of the giant's foot as he hobbled away from it. A flash of flames came from Master Tavish as well, but it ended when the foot slammed into the earth. Stone pillars shot up from the ground in the wake of the footfall, nearly missing Victor as he ran. The monster could use earth magic too. Dust flooded the street. Victor tried to find Master Tavish in the midst of the cloud, but the path behind him was dark.
With a cry of terror, Victor ran.