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After the audience stops clapping, the announcer looks down at his list. “Next… sixteen-year-old fire user Morgan le Fay from Tintagel!”
I swallow. I won’t have time to warm up after all. I rush toward the stage, trying to keep my head up though my legs are quivering. The crowd of people from all over the country is a sea of shadows below me. Camera flashes glimmer like stars. Below the stage, the King’s Cabinet members are seated, wearing fancy suits, gesturing with their cigars. Though they are chatting with each other, they eye me intently.
Music plays: aggressive drums and a flute that follow along with a woman’s haunting song. Putting my hands up, I focus on my fingertips turning as hot as coals. As I concentrate, I grow heavy as force accumulates throughout my body. This is my favorite feeling in the world. Hot energy spawns in my heart like the sun and travels through my arms. My veins burn. My body becomes like the earth, sizzling with flowing lava. The energy sails to my hands, down to my fingertips. Fssssttt—fire sputters to life centimeters from my fingernails. Instantly I become as light as a feather, all the weight having been channeled out of me. The crowd oohs and aahs.
I dance and whirl, trailing fire behind me. It arcs high into the air, drawing gasps from the crowd. Sweat trickles down my forehead, but I do my best to look elegant as I create brilliant, roaring ribbons of fire that hug and spin around my body. I have never performed fire in front of anybody before, and I feel like I’m revealing a big secret. Out of the corner of my eye a young man peers at me from backstage, his eyes full of wonder. I glance at him only once through a blur of gold and red sparks.
Letting the fire retreat back into my hands, I bow as the music finishes, making sure to keep my hot, and possibly still-sparking, hands away from my clothes. Setting my outfit ablaze would be an embarrassing finish. The crowd erupts in applause and cheers. I crack a smile and bow again.
As I walk backstage the young man who was staring at me beams with perfect teeth. Suddenly the temperature in my face rises, and it doesn’t help that I just got done working with fire.