Estelle Augustini pulled her daughter closer, knowing that she would soon have to let go. The shouting and screaming outside was getting closer by the second.
Her ten-year-old daughter looked up at her with tears in her amber eyes. “Mama, what’s happening?”
She couldn’t tell her daughter the truth, for it would make their parting even more painful. Instead, she said, “Let me tell you a story.”
Her daughter smiled, she loved stories.
“A long, long time ago, dragons, phoenixes and humans all lived together in peace. They shared their resources and magic. Then one day, there was a great fire. It destroyed many homes and took the lives of thousands.
“The phoenixes, who had fire magic, were blamed for the fire. They weren’t happy about that, and soon the dispute turned into a three-way war. In the end, our continent was divided into three, and the phoenixes, dragons and humans were separated, enemies eternal.”
Her daughter frowned, “That’s not good, they should apologise and be happy again.”
Estelle opened her mouth, about to answer, but suddenly there was a loud bang on the front door. The entire house shook. Her daughter wrapped her arms around her, shaking with terror.
“Mama, what’s going on?” She asked again.
Tears finally rolled down Estelle’s cheeks. She knew that this was the last time she would ever see her daughter. She tried to stop the quivering in her voice as she spoke.
“When I go outside, you must leave through the back door. Head south until you find another city. Stay there, and never tell anyone who you are. I will meet you there.” She knew that was the only was her daughter might survive.
“No, Mama, I won’t leave you!” Her daughter cried. “We have to go together!”
Estelle forced the corners of her mouth upwards. “My beautiful daughter, be strong and brave.”
Her daughter saw that there was no changing Estelle’s mind. She gave Estelle one last hug and whispered, “Mama, promise me that you’ll find me again.”
“I promise,” Estelle lied.
Estelle took her daughter’s hand for the last time, and pressed a kiss to her cheek. Then she opened the front door and shifted. She became a beautiful red and gold bird, flames trailing from her wings. She did not expect to find hundreds of human soldiers, clad head to toe in metal.
Iron. So much iron.
Her village had been taken over by humans, Estelle couldn’t see any other phoenixes. She could feel her magic being slowly snuffed out by the iron. A man stepped out from the group of soldiers. His face was exposed, revealing ebony hair and grey eyes. Estelle focussed all her magic on the man’s face, ready to deliver a deadly blast of wildfire. She would not give up.
She did not see the iron net drop from the sky, encasing her. But she did see the grey-eyed man walk towards her. She watched as he took out an iron dagger, its handle embellished with jewels. She struggled against the net, but she was helpless, her magic was gone. Estelle Augustini watched as the man raised his arm and plunged the dagger into her heart.
She didn’t know that her daughter still stood at the door, watching.