For some it is a tide, the gentle sea circling our ankles as sand swirls about our toes. For others, it is a wave that crashes into us, threatening to knock us to the ground. But it is when the waters ebb that we should be wary. It is when the sand is dry and the shells lie there, bleached upon the shores that we should be warned. For it is then that the ocean can catch us unawares, dragging us inexorably out to sea. I was caught in the waters, caught in the current. And now because of my stupidity, because of my recklessness, because of my loss of control, it’s very likely that I will drown. I can only hope that no one else will be dragged into the depths.

Alexa stared down at her drink, watching how it turned into liquid gold as candlelight flickered across the wooden bar. Shadows formed and twisted in the dim room, ever changing and ever present. They clustered in, suffocating her as she took another sip. The taste of fire and cinnamon burned her tongue and throat, clouding her thoughts as her eyes flickered toward the door—the gate into the Earth, the gate into the ground, the gate into peace and chaos and death.

She set down the glass, a small clink sounding against the surface of the table. Why had she done it? There was logic there, yes—the type of logic that belongs to someone who is desperate or dying. But there was no reason. She shouldn’t have struck the blow—at least not in that way.

I used them.

Alexa stared at the whirls of wood, studying the patterns that flowed and swirled across the surface of the bar. It was smoothed by hands and drinks, by craft and trade. Words came unbidden to her mind, replaying as they had a hundred times before—the words that came and left and came again. Why?

It pressed down on her, weighed on her mind. It made her shoulders curve as her fingers ran across the smooth rim of her glass. It squeezed and pushed: the feeling of guilt. She took another sip, more fire washing down her throat.

She lost control, she lost herself—whoever that might be. She couldn’t afford to do it again. She couldn’t afford to let emotion sweep her away into its fold and drag her downward to that place. It was dangerous—to her and those around her. Power came with a price, and she wasn’t willing to pay that toll—not with their blood.

So why did I do it?

A mirror. A face. A reflection. It was you there. It was you screaming on the ground. It was you crying in pain. It was your blood and your agony and your sorrow. It was all you, Alexa. It was all you.

You can no longer run.

I will no longer hide.

I am Alexa King. And no one else will pay for my mistakes.


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