The Snow Queen and the FireHeart

The Snow Queen and the FireHeart

XV

The Snow Queen and The FireHeart

In the shadow of the mountain just below the stone stairs that led up to the entrance, Elsa knelt rigidly in the black soil, her back erect and her hands clenched. The contrast of her white skin and blue dress was never more apparent as the dark mountain loomed above. Her eyes were burning with bright rings of turquoise and her labored breathing came through red, quivering lips. Yasha was kneeling before her, his hands clutched tightly to hers and his eyes glowing bright orange. The anticipation of entering the volcano had caused another wave of whispers to crash over her, and she had barely enough time to duck out of sight with him before the terrifying feelings welled up once more, causing her to seek refuge. It had almost become natural for her to seek him out, but even though he was right in front of her, calming her with his gaze and steady words, it was like he wasn't really there at all, and there was only the roar of the Heart in her mind.

He showed his anxiety calmly. These convulsions were things he didn't understand and just trying to calm her magic was draining him, making the familiar pains grow within his chest and signaling that his loan from Nazir was beginning to run out. More than that, he was concerned about the look in her eyes when she was under this spell. It wasn't the FireHeart he saw in them, but something else entirely, distant and unseen.

It terrified her, and that terrified him.

"It's passing," she finally gasped, feeling her body relax slightly. Her head falling forward, she continued to hold to him, but a shaky hand went up to her face as she tried to recover. The fits were harrowing and felt like they would drain the very life from her, yet she was quietly finding the strength to deal with them from the most unlikely of places. He was glad when he saw the colored rings in her eyes fade, as he had a strange aversion to them, though he was forcing himself to stay near her and carry her the last few steps to their destination. Her hand trembled within his, and he continued to look at her in concern, exhaling as the glow faded from his eyes as well.

"You did well," he said, encouraging her.

She was exhausted and shook her head, rubbing her face tiredly. "I don't know how you stand that all the time. It's like falling into the ocean during a storm and not being able to swim," she remarked.

He reflected on that. "You learn to swim, and become stronger than the waves," he replied. She had little reaction to his simple review and his eyes became worried.

"What of the other place?"

At the mention, she shivered once more and looked up at him, showing her fear. "I could still hear it, but just barely. The whispers were much louder this time, and they drowned out that other voice," she explained, looking for some kind of insight from him, though he had none to offer. She had vaguely told him of the distant presence she felt and it had sent a warning through him, mostly because he had no idea what it meant. His instincts simply told him to beware the other voice.

"It is your proximity to the Heart. I do not know of this other you sense, but perhaps when the Heart is no more, you will be freed from its call as well," he offered.

Taking a long breath, she slowly drew her fingers from his and rested her shaky hands in her lap.

"I hope so," she sighed.

Resting his hands on his legs, he sat back, dropping his head down and taking a moment to recover as well. Giving her support wasn't particularly difficult, but pushing back against her magic when it was so much more powerful than his own had been draining his boost of strength, though he didn't want her to know of it. He also didn't want to her know of his encounter with Nazir in the grotto or the task he had been given. With a wave of guilt washing over him, he realized he still thought of her as an enemy, and he silently wondered if their journey had really brought any change between them. Even now, after all of the words and the desperate embraces, he was expected to destroy her at the whim of a tyrant, which was only terrifying because of how he couldn't dismiss it from his heart. That part of him was the villain she thought him to be, and he hated it as passionately as she did.

"It's going to be even worse when we get there, isn't it?" she asked as they fell into silence, wrapping her arms around her and staring off to the side, shuddering at how it would feel when she would first lay eyes on the FireHeart. Looking to her, he once against marveled at how striking she was when she appeared vulnerable and afraid, as if she wasn't ashamed to wear those emotions on her sleeve. He envied her for that, and felt a heat in his chest that had become too hard to ignore when they were so close.

"Yes, it will."

With a light smile, she closed her eyes, musing at how he didn't spare her from anything. So many she had known were always conscious of how to protect her from the world, never offend her or subject her to the cruel realities around her. The princes and kings that came and went were always so eager to press her to the side, gallantly brandishing their swords in her defense, expecting her to look on in admiration as they conquered the world for her. Yasha had shown that he would make her face the terrors in order to conquer them, hiding nothing for the sake of social conscience, and he constantly challenged her to endure.

She didn't hate that about him.

"Even thinking about it…" she sighed as she shivered, keeping her eyes from him, "It's frightening." He could relate to her anxiety but for other reasons. The call of the Heart was much different for him. It was like standing before the door that would lead you to the greatest treasure in the kingdom or into the arms of a lover after being separated for a lifetime. It was frightening because it strained all measure of his self-control and the temptation was almost more than his masks could hide.

He trembled in anticipation, not fear.

"I shall be at your side," he replied softly, pushing himself to his feet and then holding his hand out to her, "You will not face it alone."

Looking up to him, she didn't know why those words gave her such comfort. She was becoming aware of the warmth inside when she saw him holding his hand out to her. In some place in the back of her mind, she envisioned him as the prince of his kingdom, with his noble character burning through the wicked villain she had once thought him to be. She secretly adored that idea, this exile and criminal having a royal bloodline. It would be one more bridge suspended between them.

Slipping her hand back into his, she rose to her feet and continued to gaze him softly.

After a moment, he drew them back to reality as he looked up at the ornate entrance to the mountain, where several of Fria's soldiers were standing guard with spears and masks. Her eyes followed, and she had noticed that those masks were the same as the one he had worn to kidnap Anna, giving them a monstrous appearance. This would be the first time they couldn't avoid them and he was sighing while adjusting the dagger at his belt. "There will be no sneaking around them. You must wait here while I go find out if they are friendly to our cause," he said, then looked to her gravely, "Or if they are not." She felt chilled by that expression and was glad it was no longer directed at her.

"Okay," she agreed.

Taking one last look at her, he nodded and then slipped from their refuge, leaving her to watch for him in the darkness. Even with the limited route to the entrance, she could barely find any trace of him as he moved and that made a shiver run up her back. Oddly, she was imagining him slipping through the castle in Arendelle, unnoticed like a shadow, searching with his invincible resolve, just as he would have when taking Anna. It still amazed her that he had pierced so deeply into her world, with none of her defenses able to stop him as he stole away her most precious treasure.

Her breath hanging, she suspected that he could even get into the royal chambers, if he but wished it.

While she was captivated in her thoughts, other shadows appeared in the darkness behind her and crept up slowly, just as quietly and calm. Their purpose was unknown, but their intent was clear. They were focused on Elsa and she was completely unaware of them until a knobby hand reached out of the dark to grab her. When it did, she squeaked and whirled with her eyes wide open and her hand clasped over her lips. Standing there was the old woman that had received Yasha's medicine along with several other people behind her, ranging from the very old to the very young. One younger woman was holding a sleeping child in her arms and Elsa wondered if it was the one that received the medicine, but her eyes ultimately went back to the old woman that seemed so close to Yasha. Her heart was racing and she didn't know how to react.

"It's you," she whispered, hoping they wouldn't arouse the guards. She eyed the old woman cautiously, not forgetting his earlier warning about their knowledge of his task, and her hand was ready to defend herself, even if she didn't want to harm any of them.

"You are she," the old woman said, "You are the Snow Queen."

Her eyes widening, Elsa felt her heart race even more. Her skin prickled and she took a step back, holding her hand out at the woman, feeling more terror at the idea having to use her magic. "No, I…" she stuttered, and the woman suddenly lunged forward. Instead of magic, Elsa merely flinched, but found the gnarled woman had only grasped her outstretched hand, pressing something hard into it. She relaxed slightly and looked to the object, which was the most beautiful brooch she had ever seen. It was intricately designed and made of gold and silver, with a large black gem set in the middle. The dark gem glowed with the same strange red markings of Yasha's dagger and she looked to the woman with a confused expression, feeling her heart rate come back down.

"What is this?" she asked.

"I do not know what my Yasha plans to do at the mountain, but I pray that you stand by him, beautiful Snow Queen," she replied.

Elsa was more confused than ever and looked from her to the brooch, and back again.

"I don't understand."

"He must have his reasons for disobeying the king, for you are here with him. The boy does all that he can for us, but we can do so little for him. His life slips away, his very soul, but all we would wish of him was that he spends his final days happy, with those that love him," she explained, looking beyond her to Yasha, who was visible speaking to the guards in the entrance. Elsa's eyes followed hers and she pursed her lips, able to sense the devotion these people had for him. The old woman's gaze had drifted back to her and she squeezed her hand again, imploring her graces with every measure of strength she had.

"We have not the strength to help him, but you do."

Elsa truly didn't understand as she looked from the old woman's pleading eyes to the brilliant blackness of the gem, as mesmerized by the red markings in it as she was with Yasha's dagger. She tried to focus on them, but not even the exotic nature of the gem could distract her from the gravity in the old woman's voice, as if he were some old man on his last legs. The others mirrored those sentiments in their eyes, but it completely baffled the young queen. Yasha was young and strong, and when she froze the FireHeart, he would have his entire life ahead of him. They regarded him as if he were already in his grave and she felt strangely offended by that, but the passion at which they pleaded with her reminded her of that part of him that was worth chasing, the shard that was his true self, and the feelings she had deep inside. Yet something in the woman's words made a sense of dread fill her heart. A dark premonition overcame her, and she suddenly felt that with all of the warnings that had faded in and out of her sight, this path she walked with him might lead her to place where he was no longer there at all.

Elsa's heart shivered at the thought as she lost herself in the infinite depths of the black gem in her hand.

"It is done. The guards will not impede us as we enter the Chamber and…" Yasha said as he approached her, though he noticed her entranced state as she stared into her hand, though was unable to see what captured her attention. "Are you all right?" Elsa snapped up from the bizarre trance and was startled by him, wondering when he had returned and how she didn't see him approach. Quickly looking around with a reddened face, she found the old woman and the others gone, leaving her their wishes. It prompted her to keep the gem in her hand hidden away.

"I'm fine. I was lost in thought, that's all," she said after a moment, shaking off her premonition but tethered to her gaze at him. The air around them was chilled and he noticed his breath coming out in white puffs of steam, signaling that her powers betrayed her excuse. He took a quick glance around to see if anyone was nearby, then reached out to to her, to try and calm her nerves.

"Are you certain? Is it the Heart again?" he pressed.

"Yes!" she cried when his fingers brushed her arm, startling them both. Stepping back with the brooch tucked away behind her, she was trying to wave away his concerns and keep looking him in the eyes, though that became harder with each passing moment.

"I mean, no. I mean, I'm fine. It's just nerves. We can go anytime. Really."

He hesitated, guessing she might still be struggling with the Heart, but decided not to continue pressing her. Once more, time wasn't on their side. "Very well. On to the Heart then," he said and turned, heading towards the path that led up towards the entrance.

With his attention elsewhere, her shoulders relaxed and she exhaled sharply, rolling her eyes at her behavior while pressing her cold hand against her hot cheek. It was difficult understanding why she had trouble focusing when there was so much at stake, but she found she was having trouble separating the raging hysteria of the FireHeart in her chest, from the one that was caused by him.

"Get it together, Elsa," she warned herself, and then followed him up the path.

Passing between the guards with a strange sense of quiet, they entered the hallways of the mountain with no conversation. The rage of the Heart was growing and she didn't have the sense to notice all of the beautiful paintings and finely crafted trinkets in gold and silver. Luxury linens lined the halls and marble statues observed their invasion. The path to the FireHeart was a statement of wealth and extravagance like she had never witnessed before, yet all of her attention was forward, to the whispers that were coming from just ahead. Walking up a set of finely carved marble stairs, they entered the Scoria Chamber, a cavernous hall that made the hallways look like a beggar's castle. Gilded, towering columns rose into the rock ceiling and dozens of beautiful golden chandeliers hung down with countless eternal candles burning brightly, shimmering through crystals and gems. There was no furniture or any of the previous accommodations, just a single golden throne, offset to the side but not facing out where any of Fria's people would meet their monarch, but rather facing inwards, towards the single thing that dwarfed all of the glittering gold of the hall.

At the back of the chamber, with curtains of molten rock and fire cascading behind it was the beautifully burning existence of power known as the FireHeart.

Both Yasha and Elsa stopped when they saw it. It was an orb of flame, churning in the air as if defied gravity itself. Flares of heat curled from its surface and colors of yellow, orange and red churned throughout. While it was simple in form, it was astonishing in beauty and she felt she had never seen anything like it. The hall was empty but for the Heart, yet it sounded as if a thousand people were all around, some screaming at her and some whispering, though she couldn't decide which was more overwhelming. Just the pressure was enough to make her want to turn back, but she remembered his words and his expectations of her learning to swim.

Without a thought, her hand sought out his hand, and she found it with unnatural ease at her side. He didn't even resist as he wrapped his fingers around hers.

Silently, they both stepped forward, hand-in-hand, to cross the barren marble floor that dominated the Scoria Chamber. There was a final set of stairs that led up to the Heart and they paused, neither of them able to go on any further. While its call was more seductive than anything she had experienced before, she managed to pull her eyes away to look at him, but was stunned by his expression. It was like a madman in love, and his eyes were reflecting the flames more brightly than when his own power had surged from within. She wasn't sure she had ever seen such lust on the face of a man and it made her emotions stir even more than before.

"I had forgotten how beautiful it is," he gasped, finally breaking the silence as he stepped forward, his hand slipping from hers and his feet taking him up a few steps.

"Yasha," she panted, clenching her hands to her chest as she watched him. It was the only thing that was managing to temper the will of the Heart – her strange desire for him to look back to her.

"You must hear it. The music. The beautiful music," he continued, wanting to close his eyes to listen to this strange melody in the air, but unable to look away from the one thing he carnally longed for in all of his years of exile. It had never had such an effect on him, even in the countless times he had seen it as a child. It was now pure pleasure running over every inch of him and he could think of nothing else.

"Can you hear its music?"

There was no music to her. It was a raging beast, a roar that was painful to her ears and chilling to her heart. The differences in how they perceived it was frightening and it was this distortion of him that began to peel away the allure of the Heart. Her previous description now seemed shallow, as it wasn't like trying to swim in a stormy sea. It was like trying to breathe while being dragged to the bottom of the ocean.

"We have to stop it," she blurted, though it came out almost as a question.

Her own tone surprised her.

Yasha flinched. It was as if she had suggested murdering his lover and his eyes reflected that horror. "Stop it?" he stuttered as he looked back to her, a mixture of anger and repulsion washing over his face. She was shocked by the way he had completely drifted away, yet at the same time she completely understood how he felt, strangely as the will of the FireHeart continued to persuade her. It was only the flashes of that strange, other presence that reminded her of reality, and the power of that voice was like a cold wind cutting through an inferno, making her cling to their true task.

Resist the Heart.

"It's to save your people," she gasped, anchored by the voice, "Don't you remember?"

He winced again, as if trying. His eyes became confused and his breath chaotic. Struggling to grasp at a memory long forgotten, his hand instinctively moved up to his chest, where he found the ring cutting against his skin. He pressed it in further, his jaw tightening. Only as glimpses in the endless gray did he remember his oath and his eyes were drawn back to the FireHeart, trying to again grasp the significance it had for the fate he so often reviled.

In spite of his infallible resolve, he was still completely taken by it.

"As if I could do such a thing," he whispered, and his tone made her chest wail. Never had she felt such painful jealousy. It was bizarre, especially as the object of his intent was this mystical thing, neither flesh nor bone, and she had only barely acknowledged her fledgling affections for him, but they were there and they made her chest burn hotter than any flame he had thrown at her, while the voice continued to whisper in her ear.

Freeze the Heart.

It was her feelings that spurred her to move and she shifted her eyes back to the FireHeart, though now they lacked the admiration they once had. With such a strange feeling in her chest, her eyes showed a much different intent and suddenly, more than anything, she wanted to shatter it and free him from its hold. To that end she reached deep inside and she conjured up a great orb of frozen magic before her, swirling it around between her hands until it crackled and creaked in the air. With another look to him and his entranced state, she hurled the icy orb at the FireHeart, feeling more spiteful that she had expected. When her magic hit, a scream shrieked through her mind and she threw her hands over her ears, barely focusing long enough to see her bluish magic mix in with the raging flames and slow them, making the Heart churn unnaturally. A tremor like the one that had rattled the caves after Yasha's defeat shook the hall around them and she could barely stay standing, though something else soon overwhelmed her. Suddenly, a wave of heat bit at her hands and she yelped, jumping back to protect herself. A line of flame was on the ground where she had been standing and her eyes slowly moved over to the source of them, finding that it had been Yasha that lashed out. His hand was raised at her, flames devouring it, and his eyes were brightly lit in orange. In his other hand, his dagger was out and held with all of the same intent he had shown when they first met, as if their circular return to the beginning was now complete. His posture showed he was ready to defend the FireHeart ferociously, even though his eyes seemed distant and empty.

"What are you doing?!" she cried, cradling her hands.

He was breathing heavily. The sensation of her attacking the FireHeart had been like nothing he was prepared for and his body had moved almost with a will of its own. He didn't even remember drawing his blade, nor did it feel weighted in his hand. It was as if he were simply watching this from afar. "The music became screaming," he gasped, his face twisting in pain. His eyes were moving around quickly, but focusing on nothing, and his body was tense and poised to react once more.

"It was screaming like before...when the walls burned and the room became black. There was so much smoke. My eyes were...burning. I could not hear anything…but the screams. Those harrowing...endless screams."

Elsa winced, watching as his emotions boiled to the surface and his eyes became more and more dangerous. They were searching, but not for anything in the room around them. They were searching the past for its connection to the tension in the air, and the way his powers raged out of his control. The emotions tore away his practiced masks and could see a terrified child bearing an uncontrollable power, one that she had seen so many times in her own past. The madness that held him now wasn't from the FireHeart.

It was when his mother had died in a firestorm of his making.

"Yasha," she called, desperately wanting to comfort him, but finding no words to do so. She feared his posture, but wanted to calm the rage in his eyes and share in this one element of their lives that overlapped, a common tragedy of their unnatural powers. There was no one that could understand it as she could. It was the simplest relief she wanted to give him.

"What is this pitiless fate?" he groaned as he slowly looked to his burning hand. The flames covered his skin, but it didn't hurt. It didn't turn it black. Fire could destroy everything in the world except him, and that was the ultimate cruelty of his magic. He suddenly hated it as his mind was dragged back to that terrible day when his childhood home had been devoured, when he had wandered everywhere, untouched by the heat, but hacking in the black smoke. The flames, so constant and harmless throughout his life, had devoured his room, his toys and all of the petty things he had so often taken for granted, before taking the one thing he loved and turned it to ash somewhere in the distant smog. Even as the other villagers had dug through the smoldering ashes the next day, they had found him unharmed, passed out amongst the charred remains of the home, buried in ash that had caked on his face from tears that had been unable to quench the inferno.

In all of that ash, anything that remained of his mother was mixed in with the insignificant rest, as if fate saw her existence no differently than paper, wood and stone.

She was speechless as she watched tears running down his face, his eyes now glaring hatefully at the FireHeart. She had watched him progress from his stoic self to one of utter lust, then become strangled by tears. This was the power of the Heart and she marveled at how it dominated him. To her further shock, he slowly reached out his fiery hand and closed it around on the blade of his Xenocryst, locking it tightly as blood and flame mixed. The tearing of skin finally aligned him to the realities of the world, where fire seared flesh and brought pain with it. It made him grimace, but focused his mind. With both of his hands holding to his covenant with Anna, he felt sturdy enough to finally see her sister bring about the end he longed for, and shatter the brilliant atrocity before him.

It suddenly became the only thing he longed for.

"Freeze the Heart."

Elsa realized that he was talking to her, even as he didn't remove his eyes from the orb. Seeing him put through such pain renewed her desire to comfort him, to help him as he had done for her, but something about him was warning her to not take his restrained hands for granted, and it sent waves of fear through her body. She felt that if she were to approach him, he would lash out at her again and she didn't want to feel his wrath. There was only one thing she could do to free him of this fate and that was to do as he demanded.

Gathering her magic, she resolved to use everything she had to freeze the FireHeart. Her first assault had done little more than slow it, so she knew that this time she had to stop it completely. Every ounce of her desire to help him would be needed to succeed, and the beating of her heart was like a metronome for her charge. Swirling a larger, even more powerful orb of ice before her, the product of her intense desires to free him, she gave him once last glance before pushing it towards the FireHeart, this time keeping a wave of magic behind it to reinforce the assault. Her orb was nearly as large as the FireHeart itself and when it hit, the mixture of ice and fire made her recoil, as she heard the screams once more. In a brilliant mix of blue and orange, the FireHeart thrashed about, making the ground quake around them, and it was only her constant push of her magic that kept the flames from breaking through the ice. Keeping a wave of magic over it was taking everything she had, but something more horrible than the howling Heart pierced her ears and her frightened eyes looked over to find something that nearly broke her concentration.

Yasha was screaming in pain.

The glow in his chest had grown so bright that it pierced his clothing, mirroring the thrashing Heart, and his body was racked with such pain that he couldn't even stand. On his knees, he was doubled over, doing everything he could to keep his hands clamped on the dagger. His head was crushed into the ground, as all of his muscles twisted and the pain in his chest was greater any time before. There had been no way to prepare for such agony, and amidst the torrent in his mind he found a certain clarity to his impending fate.

"This is what it feels like to die."

Yet no matter the agony, he was resolved to keep himself under control, even when his fear was nearly as paralyzing as the pain and the desire to stop her was almost more than he could bear. Seeing him suffering, her magic began to wane, but he was immediately aware of it. It was the reason he never told her of the consequences of destroying the Heart. He didn't want her to hesitate, as she did now.

"Do not stop!" he wailed through the pain, even as it felt like his heart was being torn to shreds.

"What's going on?!" she cried.

"Freeze the Heart! Do it now!" he screamed, grinding his face into the ground as he could feel the sweat and tears slicking under him. Hearing him suffer made her waver, but the power of his voice had never lost its influence over her. Hoping to push through it and end his suffering, she focused every last bit of her strength into her magic and forced it to consume the ailing FireHeart, making the ice crawl over the churning flames until it finally ground to a halt. The ground stopped shaking and Elsa fell forward, barely able to stand. Breathing heavily, she clasped her face with her hand, shaken by the sudden silence of the FireHeart's will. It took a moment for her to regain her senses and hear the slowly hissing sounds over the drone of silence, realizing they were coming from nearby. The sounds were of Yasha wheezing, as he laid on his side, as cold as the FireHeart itself. Her eyes widened when she saw him.

"Yasha!" she cried, stumbling over and falling to his side. Struggling a bit, she pulled him into her lap and looked over his face, finding it stained with sweat and tears, and his eyes pressed closed. His breathing was erratic and it made his body pulse against her, but she was relieved to see him alive and no longer in pain. "Are you all right?" she asked frantically, keeping him close. He laid there in her lap, trying to grasp just how heavy his body had become and the chilling silence in his mind.

He had never heard such silence.

"I am…alive," he wheezed.

She wasn't sure if it was a statement or a question, but it made her smile slightly in relief. "I think so," she said, pushing through her hesitation and brushing some wild strands of hair from his face, "I'm sorry. I didn't know it would cause you so much pain." He had no answer but the breathe, but she found herself okay with that. The aftermath wasn't as frightening as she thought it would be and she felt a fulfilling calmness as she had him on her lap. She felt like she could handle him, as long as he was quiet and still. "It's over now. We did it," she continued, giving a sideward glance to the FireHeart and where it hung frozen in the air. Her words made a shudder run through him and his hand slowly raised up to cover his face. With his eyes obscured, he convulsed slightly, drained emotionally and physically. Feeling slightly embarrassed, she thought he was crying and that it was uncharacteristic of him, though she could imagine it was the relief he felt. Allowing him this moment felt like the least she could do and she continued to hold him and catch her breath as well.

It was soothing to know they were at the end of their path, together.

"No," he suddenly said, pressing his hand tightly across his eyes. The single word made a chill run through her and her breath hung in her throat. Through the cracks in his fingers, she could see a pale orange glow coming from his eyes.

"We failed."

As if being announced, the ice strangling the FireHeart cracked loudly and then burst throughout the hall in a brilliant flash of orange light. Brighter than before, the FireHeart roared to life, taking every shard of her ice and turning it into dust as her arms tightened around him. Seeing it stronger than before, she slowly shook her head, unable to believe it. She had used every bit of her strength to freeze it, yet it had done little more than stall it for a moment. The endless whine had returned to her mind and now there was something else, gloating at her from somewhere nearby.

The presence made a chill run through her and she strangely felt it was familiar.

"He is here," Yasha suddenly growled, slipping his hand from his face and feeling every inch of his body tighten once more. She was surprised by his sudden change and looked to him, though his reaction only added to the anxiety that was coursing through her.

"Who is here?" she asked.

As if her question was being answered, she suddenly felt the presence more intimately and her fearful eyes darted to the throne, where a tall figure was standing as if he had been there all along. A terrible smile was woven into his face and a pair of ancient eyes rested heavily upon them. She had no idea when he appeared, but something about him made her tremble.

Yasha's voice barely pierced the aura of terror that had settled over her.

"Nazir, King of the FireHeart."

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