The phoenix flew, disappearing into the azure skies forever. The sun glistened off his human lover’s fallen tears as waves crept up to steal them. He left her a feather, a talisman of flight. Angry, hurt, and unwilling to forgive him, she left it there.

The waves knew not to touch it.

The rocks held back. The sand shivered and lay still, hoping it wouldn’t be noticed.

A child toddled along, craving seaside treasure. Seeing the feather she grasped it and up and up she flew, soaring over islands, bays, and oceans, till she landed by the phoenix’s side.

The phoenix wondered what this could mean. Why had his human love sent a child in her stead? Could it be … his? But nay, such things aren’t possible. Are they?

“Bird,” said the child. “Fire.”

The phoenix nodded and sent the child home with fire. A fool’s gift to one too young to fear it.

Her village burned, till the waves came up and doused it, gathering the child and pulling her into the sea. Fascinated by the sky it could smell on her skin.

There it kept her, safe from flames. She walked the seabed a smouldering ember, her head above water. Not sky, not sea, not earth, not flame.

Not happy.

The embers of her skin cracked as she grew, dividing into plates. Toughening with endless callouses and turning green with algae. Her eyes brightened with inner flame and her pupils lengthened into slits. Webbing grew beneath her arms as the talisman of flight twisted them to wings.

She flapped the wings and left the sea, fire roiling in her belly. The dragon soared across the sky. She left the talisman behind, free.

Frightened waves hurried the feather to shore and dared not touch it again.

The rocks held back. The sand shivered and lay still, hoping it wouldn’t be noticed.

A child toddled along, looking for seaside treasure.

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