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“Child, what have you done?” The words came out labored and barely audible as the old woman stared up into the deep brown eyes of her granddaughter. The girl had blossomed into a beautiful sixteen year old. Beyond the physical pain that wracked her body, her heart ached at the indifference in that young gaze. She had thought she did well in turning Odessa away from dark magic but as her spirit danced between the two worlds, she could see the powerful darkness that clung to her. The girl was never meant to be a witch for the light.

“Nothing that didn’t need to be done,” Odessa answered, head tilting as her eyes raked up and down the charred form that was her grandmother. It attests to the strength of the old woman to still be alive, let alone speak. “You were supposed to be at home.”

She hadn’t wanted her grandmother to be among the victims. It was by her miscalculation that the old woman was going to die. As much as it pained her heart, it was a better sacrifice than just the humans that were in the old store. Already, the Salamanders were moving in among the flames towards their goal.  They needed the strength of the fire sacrifice to return to their former glory, and she needed them for her next set of spells.

Kneeling down, she brushed a hand over what remained of her grandmother’s hair and pressed a kiss to her forehead. It was a show of affection that the old witch had often bestowed upon her and Odessa thought it right to return the gesture. “Do not fret; your power will not be lost. It will be mine. I will miss you.”

The wizened eyes stared at her in horror even as the light faded out of them while she recited a spell that she had only recently started studying to drain away the magic of her Grandmother. She hadn’t figured out who she was going to try it out on but since her Grandmother was dying anyway, there was no point in letting all that magic go to waste.

Standing, Odessa murmured the respectful well wishes to the goddesses before turning away. The ripping of flesh made her pause for a moment to glance back. Salamanders were much like regular reptiles, more like komodo dragons than anything else, and were stripping the bones clean. At the very least, the beasts were smart enough to char the left overs so that the humans would assume it was the fire that burned everything away.

Kicking a burning plank of wood out of her way, she headed back up the trail that would lead back up to her Grandmother’s house. There were better things to do than stand around while the lizards of flame consumed the corpses that had been cooked in magic fire. She could wait at the house until the Salamanders were done, pack a few things, and write her last letter.

After that, she had a demon to find.

Mother,

            By the time that you find this letter, you will already know that Grandmother is dead. In fact, the police have probably already ransacked the house. They won’t find anything; I hide away all of her books and spelled this letter so that only you would find it. I haven’t written to you at all this summer, I am a bit out of practice. There isn’t need to ask about Papa or Quentin, I already know how they are. You’re welcome for curing Quentin by the way. You probably already knew that I lied about curing him.

            I hadn’t planned for things to turn out the way they did. This summer was meant to teach me about the element of Fire and then I would graduate to the difficult spells before my Rite of Passage. Of course, this was by yours and Grandmother’s progression plan. I already knew about the Salamanders that lived up in the mountains, their fire shows weren’t as hidden as Grandmother had thought.

            Just to stick to old times, I’ll go into a bit more detail. The Salamanders are fire elementals with a very long past. They’re distant relatives of dragons and are able to withstand flames of any temperature. Because of their beautiful hides, they were almost slaughtered into extinction. But I’ve done my part in helping the species to grow again.

            Did you know that the Salamanders have a human form? It takes a lot of power and concentration on their part but they can manage it. They look almost human; scales, eyes, and forked tongues aside. Our agreement was a mutual one. They needed a sacrifice, a meal bathed in magic flames to reawaken their ability to reproduce. Regular flames did nothing and their own weren’t more than aphrodisiacs. Magic flames quickened their reproductive organs. If I provided that, they would give me a tribute from their egg clutches for as long as I lived.

            Do you realize the power that one Salamander egg holds? I doubt it since you turned your back on your heritage and even tried to stop me last year. And I truly don’t feel the need to explain any further than that. You may not have cared about the disgrace our line had become but I plan to bring true power back into it. You can keep your normal life; I want nothing to do with it anymore. How you could choose to live such a mundane life when there was so much literally at your fingertips, I will never understand.

I do regret that my brother did not come into power; it would have been nice to teach him all I know. Been the big sister that you kept me from being. For the last time, give Papa a hug for me.

            The cops think I died in the fire with Grandmother. Keep it that way.

Odessa

_______________________

The last of Odessa! At least, in this point in her life. Who knows, I may bring her back!

Next Creature: Kelpie

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