Phoebe loves the smell of autumn; the dying sweetness of overripe fruits and the crispiness of fallen leaves. She stands on the terrace, barefoot, the marble silky cold under her soles. The sun is setting behind the mountains, bathing the landscape in light. Below the terrace, the garden seems ablaze, pebbles burning white and the koi in the pond flashing like embers.
It is a perfect moment for parting: The sun bidding farewell to the day, nature waving goodbye to the summer. The girl shakes her head; she doesn’t want to think about it yet. She is wearing a crimson kimono embroidered with old gold leaves, the silk embracing her graceful body. She seems more like a painting than a real person.
Phoebe likes the life she has built herself here. But the moments of her fragile peace are numbered. Death is in the air. It comes with the smell of funeral pyres on the back of the evening wind. It arrives in the bitter taste of almond, a memory of Phoebe’s last meal, and in the thunder of heavy boots. The mages of the Emperor are close. Phoebe can feel their greedy breath on her skin. They will cage her, tear her apart. Dissect her again and again. They will never understand her, the flame burning in her heart.
Soldiers and mages swarm the terrace. But before they can get close, Phoebe drops her kimono. The men freeze. In one moment they see the girl’s alabaster skin, in the next they see only flames. As the fire dies down, the men can glimpse the last phoenix as she flies towards her freedom.