The two lesser fire Defiers were straining heavily now to try and maintain the spiraling blaze, but it was now growing wider, large swaths of flame lashing out into the balcony's setting a few unlucky Elements ablaze. "Shi--!" Fwoomp. One of the mages disappeared, Consumed completely by the flames. The Flame Mask stepped away from Vega with a sizable chunk of his hand missing, feeling the flames screaming for fuel. The commander dug down deep, ignoring the pain in his hand, and took control of the flames. He was not to be stopped, not when they were so close, not with the perfect bait to draw out the Pure Flame.
Many of the approaching Wind Elements were mowed down as they scrambled up the stairs to Kura and Sephira's vantage point, the screams of the injured echoing up the hall, and the dead making the steps slick and impeding traffic with their cumbersome corpses. They truly were lambs being led to the wolf for slaughter. But the Elements weren't completely helpless either. The volley aimed at the final defier fell upon readied forces, having already seen many of their brethren cut down. A few fell in the protection of their mage, but he was able to maintain his concentration and keep the flames churning. They died proud, having protected their gifted one.
Until he too slumped down to his knees, an arrow in the temple that none had noticed until it was too late. Kura had dealt massive blows to the forces all around, but she paid a terrible cost for it. Double vision was a particularly troublesome beast, particularly for one who'd not practiced her abilities enough, nor had experienced such an effect enough to discipline herself against it. And for an archer, accuracy was everything. And the Mask of Earth, with his calm demeanor, crossed arms, and nonchalant stance, despite the close proximity of the wild flames, saw the disorientation in her movements. He did not know the cause, but he assumed her magic was like his, in that too much put a drain on the body.
And his Earth Guardian was doing as it was instructed. Chasing the woman. Corralling her. He watched as she dodge away from it, watching as each step fell. He saw her readying arrows and holding them, likely for a better target. Smart. She was intelligent, precise in her target selections, but she'd failed herself in a way the Earth Mask did not. She'd failed in her body. Her steps were heavy. Her chest was heaving under the strain of her actions. Her reactions were slowed. She was more than capable of mind and skill, but in a weak form, what was the point? A small stone shot from the ground next to the Earth Mask.
A loud crack resounded as it the stone crashed through the upper limb of her longbow, just above the grip. The light tension of a readied bow, and the speed at which the stone struck, caused the splintered upper end to whip past Kura's face, carving a deep gash from cheek to ear as it went. The Masked Earth continued to watch the tactician, not willing to let his guard down, recalling his Guardian back. She was the biggest threat to everything in here, and he'd just disabled her with a minimal amount of effort. She was weak. It was a shame she'd have to die. She'd make a great general. But the weak can never be in power.
And where the Masked Earth was calm and collected, the death of all of the wind had unhinged the Wind Mask. But his eyes weren't on the archer, no. He flew upon a small tornado up to the balcony where Sephira and the six earth Elements were, eyes enraged. Wind had the least number of mages, and now he was the only one remaining. And this... this... unknown woman had killed two that he'd personally initiated! With a howl of rage, surrounded by his Wind Armor, he sent gusts at her entourage. Several arms came up to protect their eyes as he did, but that was expected. He churned the air, and forced it through the nostrils and mouths of the six men, forcing the air down into their lungs. Hands tried to block the power, mouths tried to close, but the force was too strong. Lungs were filled. Then strained. Then stretched. Then punctured against ribs.
As the Masked Wind felt the pressure within them release, he let go of the power, and the earths fell to the ground, and to a man, gurgled up bubbles of blood as they drowned on their own life force, all of them looking at Sephira, wondering why they'd helped her only to die. One even tried to reach out past Sephira, to grasp at the unreachable. He was the toughest of them all, and uttered three words through sputtered crimson splashes, "My little sister..," before he gave up the ghost.
Masked Wind floated there before Sephira, the stairs at her back, her allies dead, Kura off on her own mission, and the rest of the Earths in the next balcony staring in rage. With a smirking chuckle, he punched out toward the woman, nowhere near enough to land a physical blow, but the winds followed his attack, and they struck Sephira in the gut heavily, flinging her upward into the arch way, striking her back against the keystone before letting her drop upon the corpses of the Wind Elements that Kura had slain.
Mask floated over to her, standing over her, a hand open above her, a ball of tightly condensed air swirling less than half a meter from her. The winds were so strong and forceful and tight, they ripped the closest strands of Sephira's hair from her head, tumbling them about before depositing them outside the sphere. This ability was pure, not to be tainted by something so mundane as hair. The man raised his hand above Sephira in preparation for shoving this balled up tornado straight into that pretty little face of hers, erasing it forever.
And in that moment, a sharp canine squeal of pain was heard. Phelan had been quite the busy pup. And his efforts did not go unnoticed. His phasing in and out most certainly sucked much of the blaze away. This shrunk the inferno down considerably, to the point that Maxine could safely cross the arena if so desired. As Phelan lunged once more for the Masked Flame, a fiery limb was stabbed through his shoulder, as the Flame's Guardian presented itself once more. The guardian had a roughly humanoid form, mimicking its master, and made sure to keep itself between wolf and master, stabbing outward with its blazing limbs.
Maxine could see the muscular back of the Masked Earth, staring down Kura from her vantage point. Beyond them, she could see a woman thrown against an archway, though her face was too far off to recognize her. To Max's right and above were the Earth Elements, all stood up now, drawing weapons, screaming at the Masked Wind in his armor ready to strike a final blow. To the left of the Masked Earth, the inferno blazed. The inferno from which a woman's scream was shattering any reality of safety anyone foolish enough to have felt. Max had the vantage to see every chaotic event unfolding, had the choice of who to help, if any. And it seemed every opponent was too preoccupied to notice her.
And the twins did not need Max's orders to stick with Lavana. After all, the child of Raskalarn had promised them much, and they very much intended to get their hearts' shared desires. One of them helped Lavana upright, no words necessary. They all knew the fight was not done. The other began looting the bodies they'd left, fetching several weapons, predominately daggers and swords. She returned to the pair, and offered them to Lavana first, and then her sister.
Armed with twin scimitars, the first sister led the way out next to Max, catching the Rusalka's eyes, nodding her head backwards, as the second sister carried the injured Lavana out with them. The first smirked and shrugged. They never spoke, but the smirk was more than enough to show that they'd not left Lavana's side as per Max's orders. The second sister stepped away from Lavana, tossing twin daggers end over end in her hand, waiting for orders from their new commander. Two twins, one naked, one clothed, a woman in a bag, and a woman that looked like a drowned goat holding a bone dagger while her companions held steel stood there before the blaze in the arena. The cavalry had arrived.
But too late for one of the group.
The screams faded into nothingness.
Before the screams had disappeared, Vega could feel her skin burning, before going cold. Her nostrils assaulted by the stench of her burning hair and scorched fat. She had felt the little fat upon her body boil and bubble. Most people burned alive died from the inhalation of smoke, but this magical fire produced very little of that. Vega felt the saliva in her mouth evaporate, her eyes burst and pop, internal organs rupture as their contents expanded in the heat. Until she felt nothing at all.
And then her eyes opened. She was standing. Sort of. All around her was a haze, scales of grey all about. She could see bright white dancing all about, but the edges of it were blurred, and impossible to make out. There were sounds all around her. They seemed distant, eerily similar to when someone screams underwater. Should Vega look at herself, she would see that everything was still there. Hands, legs, feet, really large nose, all there. But every bit of her was silvery, solid yet not, glistening. And in her chest, a warm light glowed.
In the hazy distance, Vega could see a pair of women beginning to approach. Unlike the rest of Vega's surroundings, she could see these two quite clearly. And they seemed to be arguing, pointing at her as they came closer. Soon their voices could be heard.
"She's a wicked one! She is selfish, so selfish! Even when helping others, it is to feel less alone!"
"You're wrong! Her whole life has been to bring change to others, in so many forms!"
"Sister, you are growing blind in your age. This is Vega we're talking about. She is little more than a beast, only recently tamed by that fellow with the horrible hat."
"And you grow senile, Sister. She is no beast, but an avatar of passion and freedom. Her heart is too big for her own chest, and spills out violently, but beautifully."
"She spoke of our pink parts!"
"And you would condemn her for such a slight? Come now, keep your head right. No need to be illogical. You're better than this."
"Yes, you're right Sis-- What?"
The pair stopped, spitting distance from Vega, staring at her.
"Who dares interrupt our Judgment?"
A warm glow permeated Vega and the surrounding area, but no sound was heard.
"You shouldn't. She's gone. She must be Judged. Just as you will be one day."
The glow turned hot.
"You're just an..!"
And for two straight bits, every person in the arena knew that Vega was dead, and yet the chaos continued to reign among each other personal battles.
Then with a gasp for air, Vega, true Vega would find her eyes opened. Her body still burned beyond recognition, and yet, she could feel flames permeating into her. Flames that did not burn. Flames that melted the injuries down, and remolded her. The black, cracked skin was changed back into the pale glow that was truly her. Small pyres shot from her head like snake, and hair grew back out. Her organs and muscles became whole and strong, and soon, she was back, and whole.
Flames, separate from those conjured by the Element Cultists, swirled around her, protecting her from them as she finished mending. Her broken legs were not fixed, as these flames only undid the damage by those corrupted blazes. The swirling flames, deep red with just a twinge of purple mixed in stood hovered over Vega, and stared directly at the Masked Flame.
The man screamed in ecstasy, "The Pure Flame has come for us!"
He dropped to his knees, "Please, take this woman as your avatar. Show us your strength, let us be your humble minions, Pure One."
With a fwoosh, every flame instantly dissipated in the arena, revealing the whole and mostly healthy Vega, the Masked Flame, and Phelan and the Guardian locked in battle, giving no quarter. And there was a simple flame, like one might expect on a torch, though no source could be seen, hovering there over Vega. It gave off waves of warmth, and Vega could feel annoyance from this creature being called by such weak, feeble beings. Mortals were so... fragile, so alien to a being as the Induk of Faldrass Volcano.
It did not appreciate sacrifices in its name. Fire took what it desired. It did not need to be given something as worthless as this woman. Or any woman. It did not care for those that wished to use its own strength. Fire does not share strength. But most of all, it did not care for being awoken. And so, it did not claim Vega as an avatar, nor did it give into the Masked Flames' wishes. Instead it shifted forms. It stretched and elongated, and formed a bow made of pure flames. And it put itself in Vega's hands.
She could feel the solid flames, yet knew they were not. She could feel their intense heat, yet was not burned. And she just 'knew' that if she drew the string, an arrow would appear. The Flames wanted a weapon, they got one. And it was in Vega's hands.