Authors: Mary Fan
Still clutching the clock
in my hands, I lean against the wall and let myself sink to the
floor. I need
of my energy to focus on holding onto this memory and seeing
where it leads … and on keeping the strength to press through the
flames ravaging my head.
I concentrate on the girl, and, in my
mind, she laughs again and says, “Kiri, come on!”
Slow down!” That’s my own
voice, responding to hers! My pulse quickens with excitement. This
is more than just an image, or a fact – this is an actual
of something I
experienced in my past.
A fresh column of heat erupts through
me, spreading down into my whole body. The pain is so great, I grab
my head and press myself into the frigid wall, trying to find
relief in the coldness. But I’m getting so close, I can’t back down
Kiriiiii …” The girl with
red hair draws out my name in a mocking whine, then closes her
mouth into a pillowy pout and crosses her arms. “You’re the slowest
gust of wind I’ve ever met!”
What did she mean by that? Was it just a figure of speech? A
protest rises from my heart, telling me that there’s more, and I
know the only way to find out is to keep remembering. The pain of
the curse rages through me, and I bite my lip hard to keep from
Are you sure we should be
doing this?” That’s my voice again; I’m beside the red-haired girl,
wearing the same blue dress I wear now. Next to her radiant beauty,
I must look like someone’s sickly little sister.
The girl crosses her arms and lifts
one arched auburn eyebrow. “We’re sixteen, Kiri. We can go wherever
I’m sixteen years
. Despite the anguish from the curse
still burning my being, my heart leaps with excitement. Another
truth about myself was just revealed – and I
Then something strange
catches my attention: Flames seem to leap from the girl’s hair. Not
burning it, as if someone had lit it on fire, but flowing down her
waving locks. The blaze is … part of her. Slight panic rushes
through me – this can’t be more nonsense, can it? Those other
absurd images I saw came in my dreams, while I was asleep. I’m
awake now, and this memory was
. It came from somewhere;
it was brought on by the sight of my name. Are these flames the
effects of the curse invading my memory?
I squeeze my eyes tighter,
What did the girl do
Kiri!” My mind flashes
back to the first instant of this memory, and I once again see the
girl laughing as she reaches out to me. But this time, I catch
something I must have missed before – she’s not standing, like I
assumed she would be. No, she’s floating in the air. And that’s not
all; her legs and torso are surrounded by flames. But they’re not
burning her. She’s … she’s appearing out of the fire, as if she’s
part of it. The red and yellow blaze forms a translucent veil
around her body, leaping with unfettered energy.
How can this be? I try to
keep the panic, now mixed with despair, from taking over, but I
can’t help wondering:
What if this really
is more rubbish?
Slow down!” That’s me
again, and this time, I get a clearer image of myself – and it’s
not what I assumed, either. Like her, I’m floating, but I look …
faded. Translucent. Ghostly, as if I’m made of colored wind. Wisps
exude from my legs, and I’m horizontal, like …
Like I’m flying.
Just then, a flood of hotness crashes
into me, and the curse seems to double in strength. I feel myself
curling up on the floor, writhing in anguish, but I refuse to
scream – or to stop. I’ve come so far, and I can’t turn back now.
The metallic taste of blood streams through my mouth, and I realize
I’ve bitten my lip too hard.
But I don’t care. I need to
know more. Impossible as what I just saw seems, it must mean
. My soul cries
out for the truths in this memory, and I
them lying there, just out of
I focus on the thought of myself and
the red-haired girl, willing to accept anything I see for now and
puzzle out the meaning later. The scene repeats again, with the
girl appearing out of flames and me floating beside her. But this
time, I can see where we are: a lush, green grove, identical to the
one in my dream. Even the books are there, sitting on shelves woven
from live branches.
The girl and I fly out over the
treetops, and she races ahead of me. I slow down with hesitation,
and she stops and makes her complaint.
Then the memory flashes forward to our
destination, and I nearly open my eyes with astonishment as I see
what we’re standing in front of: The clock tree. It stands alone in
a vast meadow. Waves of grass, speckled with white flowers, ripple
as we approach. But the grass isn’t green, as it should be – it’s
purple and blue.
I don’t question it. I just keep
concentrating, hoping to figure out what my mind is trying to tell
The girl reaches up and grabs a
branch, bending it toward me. “Just take one,” she says with a
mischievous smirk. A silver clock dangles between the branch’s
leaves, and I reach toward it and turn it to look at its
Recognition lights my mind – it’s the
same clock I’m holding in my hands, the one inscribed with my
Without warning, a great deluge of
thoughts pours into me. The thrill of a hundred forgotten memories
returning, of the meaning behind inexplicable images piecing
together into a vision, is so clear that I wonder how I ever missed
But as suddenly as the thoughts
appeared, the curse’s heat attacks with a vigor more than I ever
could have imagined, so painful and hot, it seems the Firelands
themselves have opened their infernal gates and consumed me.
Searing blades pierce through me from every direction, and I feel
like I’ve fallen on a bed of sizzling swords. The shock is so great
that I can’t stop my scream this time, and my ears buzz with my own
cry. Unadulterated instinct takes over, and I open my eyes before I
realize what I’m doing.
The pain instantly fades, but it
doesn’t vanish as it did before. I still feel as if a dozen swords,
hot from the forge, have stabbed me at once. I remain on the floor,
But my tears aren’t from
the pain – not entirely. No, despite everything, I feel a smile
spreading across my lips, because I’ve won. The curse may have
ejected me from my memory, but I already found what I was looking
for. Somehow, that one memory, of flying beside a girl of flames
and approaching the clock tree, awakened elements of my very self
that had been locked behind the curse’s gates. I don’t have
– far from
it. There are still barriers in my mind, blocking me from much of
what I once knew.
But I have enough. I know
who I am, now. Though I still don’t know how or why I’m here, I’ve
found a reason to keep fighting to recover more. And I
. I’m too exhausted
to try again immediately, but with time, I
defeat this curse once and for
I turn onto my back and stretch across
the floor, finding relief in its coldness. Meanwhile, the truths
I’ve just learned file through my head one by one, brilliant in
My name is Kiriall Amdyth, and I’m
called Kiri. I’m sixteen years old. And I have a friend with red
hair and a melodious laugh. But she’s more than a girl – she’s a
being born of flames. Who can race through the air as a blaze races
through dry wood, but without damaging even a scrap of
She’s a fire nymph.
And I … I’m not a girl
either. As she was born of flames, I was born of wind. And I
fly, even without
wings. I can transform myself into a gentle breeze or a forceful
gust and soar through the sky as a cloud does.
Because I am an air nymph.
why the Sorci master called me dangerous. Though nymphs now
reside only in certain enchanted forests, they once wandered the
Terrestrial Realm with humans, and there are tales of men – and
sometimes women – being lured to their deaths by a nymph’s
why the Sorci master said
he’d discover my secret. He must want my abilities – my powers over
the air and over the human will. It’s an explanation based on
assumption, but one that makes too much sense to deny.
Other answers come to light
as I contemplate the revelation. Remembering the white horse with
violet eyes from my dreams, I recall the question that arose then:
How could I have a horse for a mother?
is how: Because nymphs aren’t
truly born, as humans are, but formed by the unicorns from elements
of nature. Unicorns were created by the Divinity to be guardians,
and they would, of course, care for and nurture their own. The
unicorn I saw must have been the one who made me from the air, and
she must have raised me.
The grove with books must have been a
part of the forest I lived in, and knowing that it resided in a
place of magic makes it seem like anything but nonsense. How did I
never think to consider that I came from a world of unlimited
enchantments? With all the charms in the air, one could easily
leave a book outside without worrying about it being damaged by
rain or mist.
Mist … I understand now
what the mist in my dreams was: The curse, trying to keep me from
comprehending my memories. No wonder it burned as it did. It wasn’t
just a memory of the spell binding me. It
And this same spell must be why I
couldn’t summon my powers when I thought I might have magic. But
then, I didn’t know if my abilities were real or imagined. I’ll try
again – and this time, I’ll know what I seek.
The last embers of the pain from
recovering my memories fade, and the chill of the floor no longer
seems comforting. Though I’m still exhausted, I force myself to get
up and approach the ball of light. Glimpsing Darien’s cloak nearby,
I pick it up and wrap it around myself.
Thank you, Darien,” I
I huddle by the source of warmth and,
staring at the small clock, feel the joy of remembering fall away.
Because I know now what that clock tree meant – and why each time I
saw it, I felt like something terrible was about to
A nymph’s life force is bound to her
homeland. When she leaves her borders, it starts to drain away. And
if she doesn’t return in time, she will die.
This clock, which I took from a
magical tree in my home, tells me how much time I have left. Which
is why it runs backward – it’s counting down. Each hour represents
a day, and the short hand is pointed at seven.
Which means I have seven days left to
My heart hammers with fear
as I realize that even though I no longer wish to die, I might not
have a choice.
The clock’s second hand
moves with unbearable speed, and each tick strikes new fear into my
Seven days to find a way out of this
cell, to recall just where my homeland is, and to return to its
safety. But how can I do so when all my past attempts at escaping
have resulted in nothing but despair?
I’m an air
, I remind myself.
I can transform into wind. And if I do, these
bars will mean nothing to me.
Drawing a deep breath, I
repeat the thought to calm myself. The power is within me, and
it, no matter how much pain I have to endure to break past the
spell’s magical chains.
– before the clock