“How can your invasion work?” Merrel asked, trying to stall for time. “The only portal between here and Sarant opens in the Fissure, and to attack anywhere important, you’d have to cross miles of desert. Miles that are being watched.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, wolfling.” Shasem laughed at him. “I shall take my forces back to where it all began.” The Fire goddess sauntered over to the curtain of flame that covered her chamber’s back wall. With one touch, she commanded the flickers of orange and red to move, tracing out the shape of the Mainlands continent.
“Those foolish child-gods may have broken the Binding Point when they stole immortality, but they could not erase the power of it. The Alrethrium remembers, and with its memory, I will recreate the old Pathway. My armies will erupt from the center of your world, and within hours, half of it shall be burned to a crisp. The Great Mount will be mine again, and its magma shall burst from beneath those paltry swamps, announcing to all that I have RETURNED!” Her voice rose in a shriek on the last word, and Merrel had to avert his eyes when the flames around to goddess grew impossibly bright. The lad could feel the scorching heat through his clothes, despite the enchantment Foomek had bestowed on them.
Then, all at once, the heat was gone so quickly he almost fell over. Merrel looked forward again to see Shasem grinning at him. It wasn’t a good grin, either: more like one somebody would have when they were going to pull a cruel joke on a helpless individual. There were no doubts in Merrel’s mind just who that individual would be.
“Would you like to know a secret, little wolfling?” The goddess of Fire moved to stand right in front of him, her grin just getting wider as he tried to ignore the swirling flames she brought with her. More than anything, Merrel wished he had his sword to stick through this Elemental. It didn’t occur to him that the ordinary steel would just melt if it touched the skin of the goddess.
“I know what you mortals think of us,” Shasem continued, a smug tone creeping into her voice. “You see the mountains of your world, and think Earth unmoving, unchanging. You see the rivers and the oceans, and think Water is impressive, a life-bringer. You cannot see Air, but you feel the gentle breeze, or the terrible storms, and imagine it is an element of great power. And I know,” She leaned in very close now, and it was all Merrel could do not to flinch away, “That you see my Fire, and think it quick to live, quick to die, and that no matter how big or small the flames grow, they cannot last. How stupid you all are.”
She spun away then, and began to circle him, making the boy think of a predator cloaked in light rather than shadow.
“All that you can see of us is contained in your tiny little lives. You have not seen the slow changes that Rawken makes, for my husband is ever restless, despite his creeping pace. And Temptessa, HA! She would like nothing better than to raise up her waves and drown the lot of you. As for that buffoon J’ind, the breezes and the storms that are his creations come more from a lack of attention and focus. He has not the makings of true greatness! I, however...” She came to a stop directly behind him, and while Merrel didn’t turn, he knew she was grinning again. “I endure. And I hunger. Fire may come and Fire may go, but it will always be back, for there are always warm places, deep under the ground or circling through the sky, just as there are always things to be consumed. You can never free yourself from the threat of Fire.” She touched him then, just with one finger, right in between his shoulder blades.And Merrel screamed.