Today was horrible. Sparkle tripped while we were entertaining the Fire Lord, and he threw a fireball at her.
That isn't even the bad part.
The Fire Lord was in a terrible mood (Coal told us it had something to do with the unruly peasant), and he took it out on Sparkle. After he threw the fireball at her, she crumpled to the ground, instinctively pressing her fingertips (that's where our cooling shields are) to her arm where the fireball had hit. The rest of us went on dancing, because that's what we're trained to do. I couldn't help but watch Sparkle though. She was in so much pain, the kind of pain only a fireball thrown by the Fire Lord can cause.
It would have been okay if that had been the end of it, but the Fire Lord started yelling at Sparkle to get back up and keep dancing. When she tried and couldn't very well because of her arm, the Fire Lord threw more fireballs at her. She just curled into a ball on the floor and threw up her fireshield. Of course, the Fire Lord's power was too great and the fireballs went right through her shield.
He stood up and continued shouting at her and shooting little fire strands at her. We kept on dancing, but after a few more seconds of watching and hearing the Fire Lord torture Sparkle, I couldn't take it any more.
Before I knew what I was doing, I whirled around and put myself between Sparkle and the Fire Lord.
"Stay away from her!" I shouted. "She didn't do anything wrong!" I knew that wasn't true even as I said it. Sparkle had fallen, which demonstrates imperfection. The Fire Lord doesn't put up with imperfection, which is perfectly right and natural. I just wasn't thinking about that when I stood up to him. I was only thinking of Sparkle's screaming and how horrible it seemed for the Fire Lord to keep burning her.
Well, saying what I did was probably the worst thing for me to do. The Fire Lord did stay away from Sparkle; he came after me. Very slowly and almost calmly, but he came after me.
He burned me for much longer than he had Sparkle. In fact by the time he left me alone, the rest of the kachinas were gone and the throne room candles had been relit. The Fire Lord didn't order me to get up for another long while, for which I was grateful. I wouldn't have been able to make my legs support me, and that might have earned me another beating.
There is nothing quite like the pain of being tormented with fire. It's an excruciating feeling for so many reasons. Fire is a precious part of us fire fairies, so to have it used against us is like having your best friend betray you. It's also just a very painful way to be punished. I suppose even you humans can understand that, though I've never heard of your rulers using fire as a disciplinary method.
When I was able, the Fire Lord allowed me to nurse my wounds with my fireshield. That's when he asked me to stand. Then he explained why he'd punished Sparkle, and why he'd punished me: he has to maintain perfect discipline in the Palace. It's a Fire Lord's chief duty to protect his subjects, and the most effective way to do that is to ensure that every rule is always followed. If the Fire Lord were to allow some mistakes and defiances to go unpunished, pretty soon he'd be allowing the soldiers to take vacations and pillage the village at will.
It all made perfect sense to me when the Fire Lord was finished. I even agree with him. That doesn't mean I like feeling like I've been roasted alive, but I understand why the Fire Lord did it. He isn't cruel, he's just practical.
But I'm still lying on my bed with Sparkle wishing I felt good enough to go to the party a bunch of slaves are throwing.