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~C~

Charlie needed to do something. The light fan keeping her laptop from overheating could be heard whirring, the only sound in the room after Charlie let out an excited squeal. Her acceptance from Omniou was flashing on her screen. Omniou, a tech-company that in recent years has been a prime source for philanthropy and the latest and greatest tech ventures; but more importantly Omniou was a place for people like Charlie. A place for those wishing to help others and while being in a high enough position to do so. Before Charlie made her way to the rift Omniou was a mere fever dream of a young ambitious businessman and now Omniou was the company to work for. A company that could maybe become Charlie’s home. Home. What a crazy concept. A place of comfort and safety, of peace. Charlie mentally scoffed, peace, a concept she had felt only a handful of times. Her mind flashed to her first week at Riftside.

Gym was a brutal slog of dodging hits from the more outwardly physical Physicals and getting stuck in walls while trying to work out her powers. Charlie needed a break. Charlie was like 99% sure the world was not run by some evil vindictive force but that 1% of her surely believed that her powers were some sort of cosmic joke. The universe was all like, sure yeah, let’s put the kid actively looking to belong into a class where she is a double outsider, being not from the rift and not being some ultra-flashy physical specimen. Charlie spent years researching the rift’s approximate location, tracking down the exact moment in which a gateway would open up into the pocket dimension where people have powers like real superpowers only described in comic books. And now she stood in gym class dodging thorned vines from a Physical whose skin is a pale green with darker vines wrapped around their torso, a well-known environmentalist who apparently had no qualms attacking non-plants. Charlie needed an out, her back against the wall she did what she does best, she ran. Or well phased. Right into a bathroom, earning glares from all of the inhabitants. How was she supposed to know that the westernmost gym wall backed up into the girl’s lavatory? She had yet to develop a sense of direction for the purposefully confusing Riftside High. While phasing back into the gym Charlie heard the door of the last stall of the bathroom flutter. Charlie weighed her options, go back into the gym and acquire some thorn acupuncture, or stay in the bathroom and discover the source of the strange noise. Charlie made her choice, knocking on the stall door.

“Hello? Is everything okay in there? Did you happen to eat the ice cream? I heard a whole bunch of students are sleeping off food poisoning in the medical wing.” At Charlie’s question, the fluttering door ceased moving and a high pitch laugh could be heard. The stall door swung open, Charlie narrowly avoided the blow fazing at the last second, coming face to face with wide blue eyes.

“Wow, finally another person has come to this magical water palace. Does Riftside have more of these tiny water sanctuaries?” Charlie took in this rushed response; the words were clumsy, some words blended to form a messy phrase, messy but understandable. Charlie would bet a week’s worth of chocolate chip cookies that this girl was not from the Rift or any place in which one had to rely on English. Charlie smiled. This girl was an outsider, perhaps even more of an outsider than even Charlie, this could prove to be a useful connection.

“Water palace? If this is a palace it is the worst decorated palace I have ever seen. This is the girls’ bathroom, you know… where girls go to relieve themselves.” The blue eyes widened at Charlie’s response. As Charlie got a better look at the girl she could see the water floating above her pink nails. So, this girl was an Elemental, and a newly sorted one if her confusion was anything to go by. Said girl now showed bewilderment, her forehead was scrunched and Charlie could practically see the cogs turning in her head.

“Wait, you humans and Rifties outlaw certain people from going to the bathroom? But like what if they are going through Morphis? This room is full of water, surely fluidity should be celebrated here at least. Your people seem so stuck with your rules. Like I heard the other day a person shouting about others not passing!” Charlie could not help but crack a smile, so this girl was not fond of Rift customs and rules, seemed like Charlie and she have that in common.

“Rules are kind of stupid, aren’t they? I am Charlie by the way.” Charlie saw the girl give a rapid nod and a wide smile.

“Hello Charlie, I am known as Phee. You mentioned rules, is there a place where the rule are codified? How is one supposed to obey these rules?” Charlie let out a giggle, oh this could be fun. Charlie could have fun lightly corrupting Phee and may even get a friend or at least an accomplice out of it. Charlie grabbed Phee’s hands, this was not the wisest move as now Charlie had wet hands, but Phee went from looking confused to looking at Charlie with a bright smile.

“Do not worry Phee, I will introduce you to the highest form of laws and rules, Charlie Law.” The hug she got from Phee struck a chord in Charlie, she felt warm and oddly safe in the girl’s arm. This girl was exactly what Charlie needed, a chance to be part of something, even if that something was just a pair of friends trying to get through Riftside. They both were outsiders yet they could be outsiders together. From that day on Charlie and Phee were near inseparable. Charlie taught Phee the more intricate parts of the English language and of course made sure Phee was semi-versed in mischief making (that particular lesson resulted in only one concussion) while Phee helped Charlie hone her powers, creating ice wall after ice wall to push Charlie to phase further and more often. It was in the sixth week of their friendship that their duo adopted their first stray, a grumpy mage with a propensity for snark and for following the rules. Honestly, Charlie was not too keen about their duo becoming a trinity but Phee grew attached to the mage pretty much instantly and saying no to the alien was a Herculean task.

Everything started with Phee and Charlie attending a, totally not at all black market, flea market in which Phee’s attention wandered to a brightly colored stall; a stall that boasted “ancient” human artefacts, but Charlie was like 90% sure that if these were considered ancient than her dad was anciently ancient as Charlie had seen quite a few of the objects littering the stall in her dad’s attic in a box labeled “college”. Charlie tried to pull Phee away from the clear scam but Phee’s eyes were glued to a pink lava lamp. Before she knew it Phee was pulling her to the man manning the stall.

“Dear sir, please tell me what this mystical device is. Are those mini planets trapped in a glass? I have never heard of such things on Lumeria. Those pink little planets seem so happy dancing in there.” The man manning the stall smiled a foul smile, Charlie wanted to get out of here as quick as possible. Charlie has met many a man like him in the human world, smug and with a stench of deceit. Charlie was all for fun and games and even fancied deceiving the guards to be able to smuggle in parts for her laptop, yet she has a code of doing no harm. She does not steal or put people’s safety at risk. Fun is one thing but Charlie has seen what happens when “fun” crosses the line over into deadly. The man was speaking to Phee, gesturing to the lava lamp ever so often as he told her that this “set of mini floating plants” could be hers for the low, low price of 130 earth dollars or 564 Rift Coins. Charlie had to stop Phee from getting ripped off, sure it was against the deceivers code to rat out a fellow deceiver but Phee was a friend, a friend more valuable than the stupid code her father taught her when she was young. Charlie needed to defuse the situation and fast before Phee finished counting her coins. Without thinking Charlie phased the whole stall sending all of the man’s merchandise crashing to the floor, utterly broken. The man growled, raising his left arm that was very clearly half normal arm and half blaster.

“You going to pay for that all girlie?” Charlie gulped; she was supposed to diffuse the situation not make it worse. Phee was trying her best to fix things, using her water powers to grab the fallen merchandise and freezing the broken parts together, uttering effusive apologies as she worked. Before Charlie could grab Phee and phase away a smooth voice interrupted the squabble. A girl, who looked no older than Charlie placed herself in front of Phee, a placating hand reaching out to the irate man.

“Seems we had a misunderstanding Jax. I could have sworn that the guards shut you down last Tuesday. It would be a shame if they had to come shut you down again. You know the rules, two strikes, and you get thrown into the Room.” The grown man seemed to shrink as the girl glared at him. The air was full of tension and Charlie could have sworn she saw green sparks in the air that could only occur when mages activate their power. Charlie confirmed her suspicion as the newcomer’s purple eyes took on a green tint as the seller tried and failed to form a rebuttal. The man grumbled and shooed all three girls away, mumbling that his stall is closed. The mage girl’s mouth slowly morphed to a small smile before that look was wiped off her face as she turned to Phee. “Buying illegal contraband is strictly prohibited. If I were you I would leave this area immediately.” Charlie was prepared to smile and walk away from this clearly rule-following stick in the mud but Phee’s face crumpled as she saw the lava lamp that she was so fascinated by, smashed to pieces.

“The planets, we have to save them, we cannot just leave them like this!” Phee’s voice took on a panicked tone, this was the most distressed Charlie had ever seen Phee, she was even more distressed than when Charlie took a peek into Phee’s thought recorder. Charlie looked to the smashed lava lamp to Phee and back to the mage who was now looking mildly uncomfortable but was still staring at Charlie with an arched eyebrow and a face that basically screamed at Charlie to grab Phee and leave. Charlie attempted to grab Phee to console her but as if the situation was not bad enough, Phee began to cry. This stirred the purple-eyed mage into action. The mage let out a word, Charlie was almost sure it was a swear, but then her eyes glowed a bright green, a green that soon enveloped the broken lava lamp. With a quick green flash, the lava lamp pieces formed together, creating the lava lamp that captured Phee’s attention in the first place, except now the “tiny planets” were a brilliant green, a shade suspiciously similar to the mage’s hair.

“Your planets are safe. I suggest you leave now.” The mage began to swirl away, a green sigil forming in the air around her. Before the sigil finished forming the mage was near tackled by a teary Elemental. Phee was hugging the mage, hugging her as if she did truly save a planet, Charlie did not want to to pop Phee’s bubble when she was already emotional that the planets were simply balls of heated wax. Charlie could just imagine the amount of flooding that would occur if Phee was upset one iota more.

“Rost! You are the best! Thank you for saving the planets, I am sure the inhabitants are eternally grateful to you.” Phee was shorter than this mage but was now nuzzling into the mage’s shoulder, her happiness mildly muffled by the mage’s coat. The mage had a delicate blush on her face and was stammering words that sounded came straight from a rule manual. Charlie was enjoying the scene but the two were drawing looks now from other market goers.

“Come on Phee, remember rule 67 of Charlie Law, you cannot tackle a lady without at least knowing her name first.” Phee immediately let go of the mage her eyes widening as she lets out a quick apology and backed away from the mage, still standing closer to the mage than what the societal norms advised if the look on the mage’s face was anything to go by.

“I am so sorry! I am Phee and this is Charlie. What is your name? It is only right the inhabitants of these tiny planets know the name of their savior!” From anyone else, Phee’s last sentence would seem completely crazy or at least ingenuine but this was Phee, the girl Charlie knew who apologized to inanimate objects when she bumped into them, celebrated for a whole month after Charlie told her that her birthday was coming up. Phee was good, sweet in a way that Charlie had yet to find in another person. The mage seemed to sense Phee’s good intentions and timidly raised her hand into a kind of half wave.

“Mara. My name is Mara.”

The day Phee and Charlie went to the not so above the board flea market was the last day they were a duo. The very next day she found Phee trying to sneak to the Mage Dorms looking for a certain green haired mage. Charlie of course stepped in convincing Trevor that he really ought to let Phee and her pass if he wanted the Gameboy Charlie promised him. After Trevor’s quick flip, the duo found Mara reading in the common room, away from the buzzing of the other mages. Charlie gained a new understanding of the mage. Mara was a stickler for the rules and could probably get her in loads of trouble with the Elders but she was an outsider, and that meant that she belonged in their little group. Mara tried to resist the pull of friendship but between Charlie’s persistence and Phee’s general “Pheeosity” Mara gave in. And for nearly a year it was the three of them. A perfect trinity, one mage, one physical, and one elemental. Their friendship stood strong during the whole “friendship initiation” debacle and was only solidified when Riftside hosted a carnival at which Charlie convinced Mara to up the odds a bit for winning prizes. Charlie would bet money that the green and pink plush narwhals that Phee and Mara won were lying on each of the girl’s respective beds, perfectly untouched from any outside forces. Things were great, at least on the outside, Charlie applied to Omniou in secret but only because she was curious and totally not because although she was happy she could not help but feel like she was crashing a party when she was with Phee and Mara. She thought this feeling would go away when she met Daniel.

Daniel was different. Human, so very human in that he was hopeful and a tad naïve, especially when it came to his powers, and also perhaps in normal customs, if Phee was right about the whole “corn” thing. Daniel was welcomed kindly into their little hodgepodge group, or well welcomed kindly by Charlie and Phee. It was not that Mara was outwardly hostile, other than a general teasing, but she was a tad bit prickly to almost everybody. Charlie knew Mara would eventually warm up to corn boy as soon as she felt that Daniel posed no threat to Phee’s or Charlie’s or her own safety. Blinking back to the moment at hand, the moment in which Charlie sat stunned by her acceptance into the largest human tech corporation. The moment in which she realized she had to leave. Not only was the internship an in-person internship but getting any sort of technology from the human world into Riftside would prove insurmountably difficult given the recent attack. Charlie in this moment was trapped, either she remain here, endangering her friends and herself or she takes a leap into an amazing opportunity and leaves the people who have given her first sense of safety and comfort since she turned six. The choice was clear. Charlie had to go. If she was here her friend were in danger, if she was gone they would be safe from the scrutiny of the Elders. The scrutiny that stripped Mara from her greatest pride, her powers. If she stayed there was a chance her group, her family, would be destroyed. If she left they’d be fractured, maybe sad for a few days, but they’d be safe. Daniel would keep Mara from being too pessimistic while teaching Phee with compassion and patience. Phee would inspire Daniel, remind him that he was not alone in being an outsider in the Rift and she would give Mara a reason to live outside her self imposed duty. Mara would keep Daniel from rushing into danger, powers blazing, and she would care for Phee, not keeping all darkness away but showing her that with darkness also comes light. They did not need Charlie. Charlie was unnecessary in this equation. It made sense to her that perhaps the friendship was meant to stay a trinity, a trinity without her. Daniel, Phee, and Mara. Two elementals and a mage, one elemental that the Physical students would jump at the opportunity to claim in exchange for the disappointment of physical prowess that was Charlie. It was decided Charlie must go.

Charlie let out a sigh. She needed to leave but could not leave with the group this fractured. It was her fault that her friends got hurt. She was responsible for Phee’s turmoil, Mara’s leashing, and for Daniel’s panic, she needed to right her wrongs. If she were to leave she needed to make sure the group stayed together. Everyone seemed to be moving away from one another, Phee basically ran away when Charlie approached her, though it seemed all hope was not lost as Phee took a left when fleeing Charlie, the opposite direction of the Elemental Dorms and in the direction of the Mage Dorms. Charlie knew if she could just get everyone together in a private place away from the Elders then everything would work out. Or so she hoped. Charlie at least knew of a place where Phee, Mara, and Daniel could talk through everything, it was just getting them there that would pose a problem. Mara might actually be the easiest to convince to go to the location, given that she was pretty much already there as it is. The safest place to meet was Mara’s sanctuary, a convenient portal to said sanctuary could be found in Mara’s closet. All she had to do was get Daniel and Phee into Mara’s room and then into her closet.

With her plan partially mapped out, Charlie set out towards the Elemental Dorms. Phasing through walls and floors till she reached the wall that would lead to Daniel and Phee’s shared room. Charlie had to let out a small laugh, if the Elders wanted to stop the group from gathering and interacting they should have really leashed the one that could literally phase people in and out of places. Charlie whistled a tune to let Phee know was phasing in. Phee weakly whistled back, letting Charlie know she was in the clear. Charlie entered the room, her eyes finding Phee, who was staring at a lava lamp watching the little wax globs float up. There was absolutely no sign of Daniel which put a damper on her plans, but maybe if she could fix whatever was happening between Phee and Mara then everything else would go smoothly once Daniel came back. Charlie walked over to Phee, she leaned down to give Phee a back hug, that Phee melted into.

“It’s going to be okay Phee. You just need to come with me.” Phee turned her body so she could look at Charlie, her very first friend she made in this strange world. Blinking back tears Phee shook her head at Charlie.

“Charlie please just stop. Mara told us not to use our powers and now look what happened when we did. A guard literally died Charlie and now Mara is being punished for our bad decisions!” Phee growled the words, he sadness and anger palpable, as Charlie felt an ice arrow pierce her heart. Even as she spoke about not using her powers Phee could not help but form pink icicles around her, icicles that were dangerously sharp. She needed to fix this and fix this fast. She could do this, all she had to do was convince Phee to trust her. Getting people to trust and believe her is her whole schtick, how hard could it be to convince Phee, a person that she cares greatly for to see Mara another person she cares about.

“Please Phee, I need your help. Its about Mara. She needs you.” Charlie knew playing the Mara card was a low blow but if anything could spur Phee into action it was one of her friends needing help, especially if said friend was a “pretty ball of sunshine mage”. Phee looked at Charlie and then back at the lava lamp beside her bed, her one and only green lava lamp. Phee grabbed Charlie’s hand and gave a small nod.

“Let’s go.”

~M~

Mara needed to getaway. Away from the Elders, away from Charlie and Daniel playing superhero, away from whatever is happening between her and Phee. Mara was a mage, a good one at that, disciplined and intelligent. She told the others not to go by the portal, she told them to run and get help, and she told them not to use their powers. She was in the right she was the one who tried to protect her friends and the Rift. So why has she been feeling so conflicted lately? She was not mad. Err… well she was mad, but not at Charlie or even the Mage Elder who leashed her. She was not mad at Daniel for foolishly speaking to the Elders with no regard for the Rift hierarchy. She was mad at herself. She let Phee get hurt, she let Charlie take them “accidently” straight towards the Rift outskirts. She was the cause of her own misery. Mara stared at the blank page of her notebook. She was supposed to be coming up with new sigils and incantations for an upcoming project in her Sigils class but that class seemed too far away when Mara could feel only an inkling of her magic. She was not lying to Phee when she said the leashing did not feel like much; but this lack of feeling was not an act of mercy. It was an act of cruelty. Mages are unique in that they draw their power from two sources. Inner arcane flowed through every mage, it was a baseline. Outer arcane referred to the arcane that naturally occurs in the environment. In a mage their inner arcane calls to the outer arcane, sparking when it finds outer arcane, allowing mages to manipulate the arcane in the forms of spells or sigils. Mara’s leashing meant that her inner arcane was neutralized, she could not feel the spark of the outer arcane, let alone her own inner arcane. She was stripped of her arcane sense, no better than a human.

Mara threw her notebook in act of rage causing her roommate Emma to quickly teleport out of their shared room not without first giving Mara a look of pity. The look of pity made Mara even angrier. Abruptly she got up from her desk and stalked towards her closet, eying the portal to her sanctuary. She had to thank Charlie one day for telling her to create a physical portal to her sanctuary, even though Charlie had a habit of sneaking into her sanctuary to hide from detention officers. With her powers leashed she could not astral project into her sanctuary however, the portal was sustained enough by her past magic that she could use it to enter her sanctuary. Mara took a step into the glowing green portal and watched as she was transported to her safe space, her sanctuary.

Her sanctuary was seemingly endless, no walls or doors, just space. It was as if she was amongst the mist that made up the Rift sky as hundreds of stars could be seen whenever Mara looked up. Mara quickly made her way to the one structure that existed in her sanctuary, her meditation area. The meditation platform was made of cool stone that inexplicably did not sink through the cloud like flooring. The platform had carvings of protection sigils etched in to ensure no harm come to the structure or anyone using it in case of intruders or in case Charlie gets any wise ideas of trying to blow up the platform… again. Feeling the cool stone as she settled on the platform she closed her eyes, taking in a breath and holding it till her lungs burn. As her mind cleared and she wandered into her own unconsciousness a disturbance entered her sanctuary. Mara was frustrated that she actually had to open her eyes to see who stumbled across her sanctuary. Normally her arcane senses would allow her to get a read on any intruders without her meditation being interrupted. Mara felt the sting off annoyance before she opened her eyes, coming face to face with Phee and Charlie. Realistically, Mara knew if someone was going to find her in her sanctuary it would be Charlie or Phee, no one else other than maybe Daniel would dare to enter her space and Daniel was unaware of where her sanctuary was located.

Mara watched as Charlie and Phee noticed her and started walking towards her, Charlie in the lead with Phee following meekly, eyes down and shoulders drooped. Mara did not want to have this conversation. Every inch of her was screaming to get away but with no connection to the arcane she was stuck, no better than a human lying in wait, helpless. She could get up in run to the portal but Charlie was faster and apparently determined as she quite literally marched across her sanctuary.

“Hello, Mara, fancy meeting you here.” Charlie chirped giving Mara her signature smirk though the smirk did not manage to make it to her eyes. Looking closer Mara noticed even her smirk tipped up slightly too much to the right to look naturally occurring. Charlie nonetheless barreled forward, “So… Mara, how are you feeling? I mean we are here in your sanctuary and like if you wanted to yell at someone for being the worst friend in all of the Rift no one would be able to hear you.” Charlie visibly deflated the longer she spoke.

“Peachy. Charlie, I am just peachy and if I wished to yell or scream at you I would have done it already without involving Phee in whatever you are planning.” Charlie turned away, but Phee finally raised her head and met Mara’s eyes. A steely look of determination passed over Phee as she stepped in between Mara and Charlie, hands raised, looking as if she was standing between a wild beast and an innocent safari-goer. Phee walked towards the meditation platform stopping at the first step.

“Please Mara,” Phee’s plea went unanswered as Mara let out a cackle.

“Please what, Phee? Please stand here while we just conveniently ignore the fact that I am as helpless as a foolish human. Or is it more of a, please rewind time so that the last 48 hours never happened?” Mara was angry, surprising only herself with just how angry she was. Charlie was honestly expecting more of a meltdown. Phee just wanted to comfort Mara but she was scared, how was she supposed to offer any kind of support when she was the cause of her agony? She saw Mara after her leashing and she was quiet much like the quiet before storms in Lumeria, all peaceful before lightning strikes the imperial buildings. Mara may have been leashed but in this moment she was a powerful storm, one that could not be quelled by a mere confused alien. Phee’s confusion was visible, causing her to take a step backward and causing Mara’s smirk to take on a more sinister look. “Oh, come on Phee, stand closer I do not bite. You could easily take me right now.” Phee’s face dropped. Charlie broke from her stupor. Things were totally not going to plan. She was supposed to ease the tension swirling between Phee and the mage, not make it worse.

“Listen, Mara, if you are mad at anyone let it be me. The trip to the Rift was my idea. Your leashing was my fault, not Phee’s. Please just hear her out. You can stay mad at me all you want.” Charlie’s statement did little to calm Mara. Charlie was lucky that Mara could not summon a transparent green fist to “gently persuade” Charlie into dropping the matter.

“And people say I am the arrogant one. One, my actions are mine and mine alone and two, I do not need your permission to be angry. I am not Phee, your ‘Charlie Law’ has no hold over me.” Mara took a breath, she had sworn to herself that she was not angry, that she could not afford to be, so what was making her feel this way? She let out a breath and turned her back towards Phee and Charlie only facing them once she was sitting in the middle of the platform, closing her eyes as a sign of resignation. Her voice tender and low resonated through her sanctuary, “Please, just leave before things get worse.” With her eyes still closed, Mara listened to the sound of retreating footsteps and the sound of the sanctuary portal activating. She was alone. Opening her eyes Mara let out a sound that suspiciously sounded like a squeak in one of Phee’s favorite anime. Charlie was gone but Phee was sitting in front of her staring and pouting. “I thought I told you to leave.”

“You looked scared, Mara.” Mara had to raise an eyebrow at that; leave it to Phee to start a conversation with a non-sequitur. Phee was fumbling with her hands, creating swirls of water between her hands, freezing and unfreezing the water. She was the one who looked nervous and Mara made sure to tell her that.

“Me scared, Phee? You are the one that is shaking.” Mara tried for a half smile but judging by Phee’s face she did not succeed. Phee remained solemn.

“Maybe scared is the wrong word? Your kind has so many words to mean such little things, I am sorry I did not mean to offend. You had the same look on your face when I set up the ice wall, right when you stepped in front of me during the attack.” Phee looked up meeting Mara’s gaze. Mara relaxed her face once she realized her face was scrunched, rearranging her features to an icy neutral.

“I do not know what you are talking about Phee. I had everything under control!” Phee could not take this distance anymore, Mara physically was only feet away but with every word she was retreating back. Phee needed to be bold or face the possibility of Mara pulling away. Phee stood and closed the distance, taking Mara into her arms, engulfing the taller mage in a hug. Mara was frozen. She could hear Phee muttering something in her ear, her warm breath sending shivers down her spine. Phee’s tone was gentle and soothing though Mara found herself confused by the singsong words, nonetheless it was as if the fight left her body. Mara would have to ask Phee later if Lumins held some powers of soothing. She had heard of such species that lured sailors to their deaths all with their melodic voices and she had always written the deaths off as the lacking will of human sailors; but as she listened more she was certain that if death was the cost of hearing this voice perhaps those sailors died content. Phee’s voice faded and silence filled the sanctuary. Phee waited a breath before she began to speak.

“I am sorry Mara. I cannot lose you. Be mad, yell and scream, but please do not leave me.” Mara felt Phee’s tears before she heard them, they were cool against her collarbone. Mara backed out of the hug, raising her hand to wipe Phee’s tear. In lighter times Mara would joke about the fact that her tears match her pink aesthetic but Phee looked crushed and the tears were flowing fast. Phee made eye contact with Mara, her thoughts swirling and crashing through her brain. Unbeknownst to her Mara was also in turmoil.
“Phee. You have to understand that nothing good comes when people of different classes mix. I cannot in good conscience allow our friendship to continue. You should not sacrifice yourself for a mere friendship.” Mara forced the words out, teeth gritted and eyes closed. She knew the words she were true. From a factual standpoint, continued contact between the two of them would only serve to anger the Supreme Elders but also carry the chance of extreme catastrophe for both them and the rest of the Rift as they know it. Mara shivered; her sanctuary was usually under her control but now the temperature of her sanctuary plummeted. Opening her eyes Mara was bombarded with the sight of pink snow and a very angry looking Phee with glowing eyes.

“I don’t understand? No, Mara Greer it is you who doesn’t understand. You are acting so… so human! Cowardly running away when I know for a fact you are not a coward. You are a mage. Brilliant and ambitious. I have lost my family, my planet, my culture, and I refuse to lose anything else. Charlie laughed when I said you were a ball of sunshine but what you don’t understand is that you are my moon!” It could be said that when Mara is angry she acts like a cyclone, damaging anything that is near her with sharp wit and pointed accusations. Phee was like a blizzard when she was angry. While cyclones are vicious there is always a safe space one could hide in even while outside, the eye of the storm. In a blizzard there is no safe space, the bitter temperatures stings while the fight leaves the victim’s body resigning them to a cruel fate.

“Moon?” Mara muttered, confusion evident in the way she tilted her head and scrunched her eyebrows.

“Out of all the things I said… The moon on Lumeria calls to the tides. The moon watches the tides keeping the tides steady and smooth while the tides reach out towards the moon yearning to ease the moon’s loneliness. Mara you are strong. Whether you realize it or not you are incredible. You remain at the height of power and respect even if you have to do it alone, but like the moon has the tides you have me… and Charlie and Daniel reaching out towards you. I will continue to reach for you even if we meet the same fate of the tides and the moon, destined to never touch.” Phee’s speech was spontaneous yet not unplanned. The day of the faux date she was spooked when Mara asked about the content of her notebook. If she had asked about one page prior to Charlie’s lesson on eating she would have seen a poem, poorly done and incomplete but full of feeling. Now it was Mara with tears in her eyes. Here Phee was dismantling Mara’s will to adhere to the Rift’s rules. Phee was correct, she lost her family and her planet and suffered every day from the loss. Mara did not know how to express her desire to just fall in line with Phee, but falling with Phee meant losing her home, the only she had ever known, the Rift.

“Phee…I cannot leave the only home I know.” Phee looked crestfallen, the snow around the sanctuary stopped blowing settling into piles of snow coating the misty cloud flooring. “But I cannot leave you either… or Charlie or Daniel.” Mara could not look at Phee instead, she turned her eyes upwards.
A mage’s sanctuary was a reflection of the mage’s soul. When Mara first created her sanctuary, it was a labyrinth lined with shelves of books. The middle of the labyrinth was a garden similar to the one her father took her to when she was young, a single stone meditation spot amongst plants under the misty sky typical to the Rift. When Phee and Charlie first visited her sanctuary, Charlie claimed it was a sanctuary fit for Charlie herself as she spent hours trying to start a game of hide and seek with Mara and Phee, phasing through the maze with excitement. Phee got utterly lost during the game, she was able to make it to the center garden before Charlie finished counting. Phee sat in that garden for what seemed like forever before Charlie and Mara entered the garden together. Charlie was laughing and Mara scrunched her nose in a way Phee had come to learn meant she was holding back laughter.

“Did I win? I won right?!” Phee smiled jumping up and down with glee. She was a notoriously bad hider as she often played a game of “hot or cold” with the seeker, always giving away her position in the end. Charlie hugged her and laughed.

”Yes Phee, congratulations you beat me.” Phee squealed with happiness, completely unaware of Mara shaking her head at Charlie, Charlie merely put a finger in front of her mouth, signaling to Mara to not tell Phee that Charlie spotted Phee 30 minutes ago much before she found Mara who was cloaking her presence as she read. In her excitement Phee summoned a miniature water show. Mara noticed this little water show that she had seen a handful of times.

“Phee what’s with the water show?” Phee turned to her friend, eyes wide with excitement as she grabbed Mara’s hand.

“On Lumeria it is customary to watch the dancing lights to commemorate achievements or great happiness. The dancing lights dance across the sky for hours till the sun rises ending the lights’ fun.” Phee’s smile only grew with excitement. “Oh Mara, I wish you could see the dancing lights they sparkle just like your magic!” Mara had heard stories of lights. Within the sky, humans called them stars. Mara could see the wistfulness in Phee, amongst it was a kernel of pain and longing. When Charlie asked if Phee and her could visit her sanctuary Charlie pulled Mara aside to plan a day for Phee who spent the last month mourning her mother’s birth month unknown to Mara or Charlie till Phee spontaneously burst into tears during PE. Phee needed something special and Mara knew she could do something to ease her suffering. With a flick of Mara’s wrist, the labyrinth disappeared, it was just Phee, Mara, and Charlie standing in the middle of the sanctuary. When Phee and Charlie turned to her Mara smirked and then flicked her wrist once more. Thousands are stars lit up the sanctuary. Phee squealed and akin to their first meeting, nearly tackled Mara, thanking her. Charlie smiled and nodded at her giving her a low five.

Mara closed her eyes and returned to the current movement, feeling the light chill she opened her eyes once more finding the dancing lights that have been a part of her sanctuary since that game of hide and seek. Phee’s happiness was a part of her soul. The starry sky of Mara’s sanctuary evident of the sort of horizon of Phee and Mara, a place in which Mara and Phee souls touched. Inspiration struck Mara and before she realized it, she was moving towards Phee, gently cupping her face and laying a chaste kiss to her lips. The kiss lasted only a short moment, too short of a moment if you asked Mara, but Phee had a pout on her face.

“Mara please tell me this is not goodbye.” Mara merely smiled at Phee. Taking a page out of Phee’s book and stepping much too close than what is socially acceptable.

“Phee, your story was wrong.” Phee tilted her head, her pout only intensifying. “The tides do meet the moon. The tides kiss the moon at the horizon.” Mara accentuated her statement with a small peck on Phee’s cheek. Phee grabbed Mara holding her like she was the most precious thing in the universe. Phee and Mara would not have an easy path, but there was a path to take, a path into the horizon.

~C~
Charlie was pacing back and forth in her room. Her room was unusually clean and her coffeemaker was unusually quiet. Charlie bit her lip and put the note she spent hours agonizing over on her desk by the coffeemaker. This was goodbye.

Fin.