The cool mountain air was a welcome change from the stuffy coastline and the gentle breeze made the curtains dance. Most people would find this atmosphere relaxing, but not Nick. The clean air put him on edge, at least until she stepped out onto the balcony in her summer dress and looked over the railing.
“Isn’t it a beautiful night? No clouds, new moon; perfect for watching fireworks,” Venus said as she looked at the city lights below. “I hope they have those palm tree bursts that linger for a while; you know how hard it is to get those to burn properly.” Nick only nodded, he was not happy their departure had been delayed.
“Of course, your grace. But if I may ask, why do you insist on lingering here?” He never cared for the jungle; it made him sweaty and sticky.
“Something about the excitement in the air, plus no one makes fireworks quite like the Chinese,” she laughed. “I am simply awed that they repeat customs started by their ancestors so long ago, and they continue to do so with such passion. It warms my heart.”
“They should be commended, then, for I did not think it possible. Warming your heart any more is truly a feat unto itself.”
“Be nice, Nick or we won’t stop in Germany for Oktoberfest,” she said sticking out her tongue. She sat down in a tall wicker chair with a pout on her lips and tried to keep a straight face as she put on lip gloss, but Nick knew it was for show and laughed making her break into a smile again.
“You are such a bad liar; you love those waffles with chocolate too much, no way you’re going to pass them up.” He was right, of course, but she would never admit it.
The villa was set high in the mountains overlooking the city and gave the perfect view down to the city, exactly why she had wanted it built here in the first place. After a few moments the fireworks began to sail high above the city, and burst into a rainbow of colors before them. Her stomach began to flutter and her excitement caused the temperature to raise a few degrees. While most people would be watching the bright colored lights, Nick kept his eyes on her.
“Pardon the interruption my lady, but you have a visitor,” a young girl said from the doorway.
“Now? But the fireworks just started,” she said as she rose from her chair. “Tell them we will be right there.” The girl gave a small nod and left to relay the message to their surprise guest. Venus stretched and gave herself a quick look in the mirror as Nick scoffed.
“What?” she asked pulling her long red locks up into a bun. She knew what was coming, he did it all the time but it always made her happy to hear it.
“You’re beautiful, why are you worried about your hair or makeup?”
“Just because you think I’m beautiful doesn’t mean that everyone feels the same, and you know I have a reputation to keep with my sisters.”
“More importantly than your appearance, who knows we are here? Had you mentioned your being here to any of them?” Nick asked as he rose to follow her.
“I don’t think so, but it’s no secret that I like to watch the spring festivals. They must be here to celebrate with me.” She secretly hoped it was Savanna, not that she loved the others any less but their personalities just clicked better than others. It was probably because their elements were so closely related, she thought to herself.
As they passed into the entryway they were greeted by the sight of a hooded man crouching over the body of the servant girl. He pulled his knife from his belt as Venus let out a horrible scream.
“What have you done to her? What is the meaning of this?” she shrieked. Immediately the hallway felt like someone had turned the heat on full blast.
“I have come bearing a message, your highness,” the man said in a low growl. He spun his knife in his hands, eyeing them like a cat eyeing its prey.
“How do you know me, and what is this message you’ve come to deliver? Tell me before I melt the skin from you bones,” Venus said as her eyes began to glow with an eerie dark red.
“The one I serve knows many things, including how you came into your stolen powers and plans to return them to their rightful heirs. He believes your Court is an abomination and an affront to nature, as such I am ordered to escort you from your throne to the next world; just as I did for the little Iron Queen,” he said with a wicked smile.
“Savanna? I swear you will tell me exactly what you mean before you leave this world, and if you hurt her I promise you will leave in pain,” she spit at him. From thin air large heavy iron chains appeared in her hands and clanked loudly as they hit the floor. The chains began to burn with bright flames, and the ends swelled with large balls of fire. She shuffled them around menacingly, her anger welling up inside of her.
“Please, let me handle him,” Nick said as he stepped in front of her. “He only thinks he knows who he's picked a fight with,” he said as his hands burst into flame.
The hooded man wasted no more words and threw his knife straight for Nick’s heart. A wall of fire shot from the ground to the ceiling, melting the knife as it passed through. A small puddle of steel fell to the ground at his feet. “You can’t get through my flames with an attack as weak as that,” Nick taunted.
“I don’t need to get through, I only needed to distract you,” the man said. He stepped to the side as a torrent of water came flooding through the open door behind him. Steam filled the room as the water washed over the wall of flame, carrying Venus and Nick back down the hallway into a larger room.
“Elemental attacks?” Nick said spitting. “How can he be using water against us?”
“I don’t think it was him,” she said between coughs.
“Where did that wall of water come from then?”
“He must have backup, I’m not going to let him and his friends tear up my house. Let’s take this outside,” Venus said as whipped one of her chains at the large window, smashing it to pieces. They sailed effortlessly through the hole and rolled as they hit the ground. Her chains hit the dirt with a loud clunk and she raised her eyes to see who or what was waiting for them.
A dozen figures clad in black stood all around them with weapons in their hands. Venus’ mind automatically switched to combat mode and she began studying her new enemies. She could see swords, spears, even a mace in their hands, ready to engage in a heartbeat. They wore expressionless masks, like puppets only doing someone’s bidding. And judging by the way they were exceptionally prepared, this was a team with one purpose; destruction.
“Where the hell is Jacque? He’s supposed to be handling the perimeter. And without him what are we going to do?” Nick whispered.
Venus wasn’t used to being attacked in the open like this. Anyone who knew her true identity would be smart to keep their distance. Fire was always regarded as the most unstable element and one of the hardest to counter once it was mastered. More troubling was that the assailants had elemental powers at their disposal; somehow they had the means to eliminate her. If Jacque hadn’t shown himself by now he was probably already dead and with part of her team missing this was going to be a difficult fight.
Knowing that they were here to kill gave Venus a certain satisfaction, knowing she could let her powers run wild. She smiled as she let go of one of her chains and it dissolved into nothingness as it fell to the ground. A few of the masked figures snickered, they must have assumed she was giving up. They would soon find out how wrong they were as she reached up towards the large ruby pendant around her neck.
“No! Don’t let her reach her Rook!”
By the time the words registered it was too late. Venus felt her anger surge and she envisioned the biggest, baddest thing she could think of. As she brought the stone to her lips a bright red light burst from it and a wave of heat pushed out from her in all directions. Suddenly a huge fox with nine bright, flaming tails stood protectively over Venus and Nick. Twenty feet tall, snarling and clawing at the attackers, with its tails lashing back and forth leaving huge gashes in the ground.
“Damn it, I told you not to let her activate it! Now we’re going to need more than a little water to see this through.” The figures backed off further, startled by the appearance of the giant fox. The heat surrounding Venus should have been enough to make anyone think twice about attacking, but the heat didn’t seem to bother them.
“I want them all turned to ash, Nick.”
“With pleasure your highness,” he replied. He raised his arms into the air and a hundred arrows made of fire appeared in the air around him. He threw his arms out and the arrows launched themselves in all directions through the night sky. The chain reappeared in Venus’ hand and she spun like a dancer wreathed in flames launching herself forward.
The clash of weapons echoed through the trees and down the mountainside as the fireworks continued to burst overhead. Large chunks of earth and broken trees flew down the mountain leaving destruction in their wake. Flames reached up into the sky as Venus rode atop her giant fox, trying desperately to stop the boulders and torrents of water coming in her direction.
“No! You shall not harm her!” Nick screamed as he raised his hands in a circular motion, causing a massive tornado of fire to appear around him. As he shifted his hands, the tornado swept across the field of battle, catching six of the figures up and tossing them down the mountainside. Nick laughed victoriously but it was cut short as large spikes of rock buried themselves in his back.
“Nick!” Venus screamed as she spun her chains around viciously shattering a large tree about to crush her. As Nick fell to the ground a dozen more figures stepped out from the trees behind him. Tears filled her eyes as she launched herself off the fox and through the air with blind fury at the new enemies, her chains following her like the tail on a comet.
She hit the ground with such tremendous force that the trees shook and her foot left a ten foot crater in the ground. As she heaved deep breaths the air around her became hotter than the desert and her entire body began to glow with the same red hue as her eyes. She whipped her chains around her head in large circular motions smashing weapons, trees and bodies all around her.
There was a loud crash behind her and she turned to see her giant fox wrapped in vines had crashed headlong into the house tearing a huge hole in the side. Around it three men lifted their hands into the air and huge stone pillars tore out of the ground and hovered above them for a moment. The fox let out a defeated grunt as the men brought their hands down and the pillars crashed down on the fox and more of the house. The fox exploded into millions of flecks of red light, just like the fireworks over the village.
At the sight of this her rage peaked and she screamed in a distorted voice flailing about with no regard to anything anymore. The assailants took advantage of her distraction and surrounded her, hurling orbs of water and spikes of rock. Tiny plants sprouted at her feet and quickly grew into vines that wrapped her wrists and shoulders and pulled her to her knees in the dirt.
She screamed with rage and her skin began to glow, and burst into flame around her. The plants holding her down burned to ash around her feet and she flailed out with her chains again. This time they were ready for her, and large stone columns erupted from the ground binding her in place. The spots where the stone met her skin began to glow, and they realized she was going to melt the stone shortly. Suddenly water poured over her, dousing the flames around her and cooling the stone so she couldn’t get loose. Her chains disappeared and now she had nothing but her hands to fight with.
She knew she was beaten but she pulled at her arms in vain, screaming, trying to get her flames to reignite. She remembered her training, and tried to concentrate, but her emotions were running wild and unchecked making it hard to focus. Steam began to rise from her skin but she was doused with a new wave of water and by now had spent most of her energy. Looks like there’s no way out of this one, she thought to herself. Except maybe one thing…
“I don’t see why you’re still fighting us, I told you already your highness; you are an abomination to nature and must be removed from the world of the living.”
Through tears and with much effort she was able to reply. “Abomination? I won my throne in the ancient tournament and now I protect the balance of this world. I am the Queen of fire, and your sins here will not go unpunished.”
“No; you see fire is destruction, it is living destruction. It burns everything it touches and consumes life to feed itself. Fire destroys everything, and now it’s time for it to destroy you as well.” He walked toward her slowly with a large mace in his hand. She knew there was only one thing left to do as she lowered her head and closed her eyes. She focused all her remaining energy into what she knew would be her final stand. It would be glorious, worthy of remembrance.
“As your master sits in the shadows, know that you have served him well and paid the ultimate price for his cause. You will be privileged to see my ultimate technique. I call it Supernova.” Her body began to turn white, glowing like the sun and the air began to catch fire.
“Run! We need to get out of here!” one of the men shouted as he ran into the trees.
“It doesn’t matter how far you run, you will all burn with me,” Venus said in a distorted voice. “As the fire consumes me, it will consume all of you and make you pay for your crimes this night.”
Her attackers fled into the woods, trying to escape into the trees not knowing it wouldn’t help them at all. The blast itself was so bright anyone watching the mountain that night thought it part of the celebration.