Fire Dance is a short multi-part story taking place in the same world as Pyrrhic Victory, a few decades before the events of the game. While battles are won and lost and nations are often at war with their neighbours, there is much besides war that happens as well. From the deserts of Slahor to the frigid Wajanderu lands, the lost son of Slahor comes to terms with his gift and his curse. A tale of magic and might as O’in struggles to find both his place and some peace in a world constantly beset by war. Families splinter and new unexpected bonds are formed as nations fight nations and O’in comes to terms with his gift-curse.
In the first Chapter, O’in learns of his gift-curse; he is a Firecaster. Sentenced to death by his own father, O’in flees with the help of visiting merchants and his childhood friend Chack.
Later that evening O’in, still damp and shivering, sat at a table on the ground floor of the inn with Aldo and Akili. The room, though small, was full of patrons laughing, drinking, and eating.
“Here, Boy,” Akili said to O’in raising his voice to be heard above the din. He set a tankard full of amber beer in front of the young man. The foam on top spilled over the sides giving off a yeasty scent. “This will help warm you up while we wait for dinner to be served.”
O’in nodded in thanks. He was afraid to speak lest his chattering teeth get in the way. As he took a sip the warmth of the alcohol spread from his belly out to his limbs. He absent-mindedly watched musicians seated on a raised stage tune their instruments in preparation for their performance.
Aldo eyed O’in, “What should we order for dinner, Akili? This is the boy’s first time eating Rupanian food, so it should be something special.”
Akili chuckled, “I agree. What do you think about trying the famous open-faced fish sandwich?”
O’in took a swig of his beer and looked at the tankard in surprise. When had he finished the entire thing? He felt pleasantly warm. “Hmm? Oh, that sounds fine. May I have another beer? We rarely imported it so I’ve only had a small sample before. It’s delicious!”
Akili laughed, “I think one is enough. I’ll go get you something a little less potent as well as get our meal started in the kitchen. I am, after all, the owner of this little inn. I might as well do some work to keep it profitable.”
A few minutes later Akili emerged from the kitchen carrying a plate in each hand high over his head. He set a large fried fish corn cake crusted in bread crumbs and drizzled in thick brown gravy in front of Aldo, then flourished the second plate as he set it down on the table in front of O’in. He stared down in surprise as what lay on the plate looked back at him. A halved fish head, eyes and all, was carefully laid on top of a large slice of bread.
O’in looked back and forth between the two men. “Uhm, what is this?”
“It’s the fish head sandwich you ordered,” Akili replied with a slight bow.
“Ah,” O’in said. Afraid to be rude in the new land he carefully lifted the bread trying to ignore the glassy eyes. Swallowing in disgust he raised the bread to his lips before pausing when Aldo and Akili roared in laughter.
“Don’t eat it,” Aldo said wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, and gestured towards the sandwich still paused mid air in O’in’s hands. “That’s a Rupanian’s way of welcoming you into their country.”
O’in sighed in relief and dropped the sandwich back on the plate revealing one of the eyes, which he quickly covered up with a piece of bread. “Thank the gods! I was really going to eat that thing,” He laughed.
“I’ll be right back with your actual meal,” Akili chuckled. “I promise. This time no eyes.”
After their meal O’in excused himself claiming fatigue and escaped to the room he and Aldo shared. His rescuer decided to stay longer to talk with Akili and catch up with his friend. After he settled into the room O’in shivered in his damp clothes as he squatted next to the fireplace and struck a flint to light the kindling. He sighed wondering if he was going to have to sleep nude to allow his clothes to dry by the fire that burned merrily in the small fireplace. He held his hands out to warm them. I wonder – he thought and stuck his hand into the flames.
A pleasant warmth enveloped his hand and O’in smiled. Grabbing a fistful of embers he cupped his hands together and slowly ran them down his side to speed up his tunic’s drying. The cloth steamed, helping to warm him further. Embers fell unnoticed from his hand landing just short of the flagstone hearth. The wooden floor began to smolder as more embers fell. O’in scooped more embers from the flames, excited at his discovery, and ignored those that fell from his hands onto the floor.
As more embers fell onto the wood it began to smoke. Suddenly, the dried sap throughout the planks ignited with a whoosh. Upon hearing the noise O’in looked down in surprise finally realizing he stood amidst flames that licked his legs. He jumped back as the bottom of his skirt began to smoke. He threw the embers in his hands back into the fireplace and looked around wildly hoping to find an ewer or bucket full of water only to find none. He rushed out of the room trailing smoke from his clothes.
“Fire,” he yelled as he ran down narrow steps to the restaurant below. The noisy patrons paused. Everything was quiet for a moment as all took in the smoke creeping down the stairs before they jumped up and rushed off to start a human chain from the well, through the dining hall, and up the stairs to the fire.
“What have you done,” Akili yelled at O’in as he rushed by with a bucket full of wet rags from behind the bar kept for this very reason. “Don’t you have any common sense?! Don’t use magic until you know how to wield it! I swear if you destroyed my livelihood I’ll take back from your hide!”
“I’m so sorry,” O’in cried out to Akili’s back. He ran outside to help with draw water from the well and pass it to waiting hands. He spotted Aldo with his arms above his head as he tried to still winds the fire brought with it as it attempted to spread to the barn and other nearby buildings. At the same time he used his magic to keep the smoke clear from those trying to put the fire out.
O’in’s muscles burned from the repetitive motions of dropping the bucket into the well and winching it back up again to hand it to the next man in line. Soon, his arms grew numb with the effort, but he knew he couldn’t stop. Guilt ate at him as the men of the village teamed together to save the inn.
Hours later, just as the sun began to rise, the exhausted villagers lay sprawled out in the courtyard watching with glassy eyes as wisps of smoke rose from the ruined shell of the inn’s top floor. The roof collapsed leaving the morning sun to peek through the windows. O’in, as tired as he was, moved from one man to another giving them water to drink from the bucket he carried. It was accepted gratefully, but not without a glare staring at him over the dipper for all knew it was he that started the fire. Women bent down here and there bandaging burns and other wounds sustained throughout the night. All knew it was a blessing that there were only minor injuries from this catastrophe.
“O’in,” Aldo called softly as he stood by the barn. “Come here, lad. You must rest.”
O’in moved towards Aldo and gave him a dipper full of water. “You know I can’t. I started this fire so I must do everything I can to help. Aldo, if this is what it means to have magic then I don’t want it! I just go around hurting people! First, my father and now here! I should have just let my father kill me. At least then I wouldn’t endanger anyone.” He noticed the empty pool where Akili’s beautiful Water Pingo once stood. All the water sustaining the tree was used to help put out the fire. He gestured towards the pool, “He hates me now! He’s been nothing but kind to me, and I destroyed his home and business!” He slumped down to the ground and covered his head with his hands.
Aldo bent down and laid his hand comfortingly on O’in’s shoulder. “I felt that way once too. When my powers first showed themselves on my father’s farm I killed my mother’s prized chicken by blowing it against a wall. Accidents happen. Death isn’t the answer. You must learn control. The Akademie der Urkraft will help you with that. Think of all you can do to help!”
“But what about Akili? I have to stay and help him rebuild.”
“I already sent notice to the Akademie. This is not the first time a Slahorn Remedon Za’Abat has accidentally burned a building down. They will bring resources to help Akili rebuild, and they’ll pay him for the time the inn is not open to customers. No lives were lost. All will be well. I spoke to Akili. He knows help is coming.”
“It’s all just so hopeless. What if I hurt more people on the way to the Akademie? I couldn’t bear that!”
“You’ve seen the prejudice in your country against magic users. What if you could change that by learning control? You are the highest ranked person in over a century to be blessed with this gift! You can change things. When the Slahorn citizens see a Governor’s heir using magic to help them it will make strides in changing their minds. Magic is not evil. As I told you before, it is the person who wields it who makes it good or bad. I have seen a Remedon Za’Abat reduce the size of flames devouring a home to rescue those who were trapped within. And not just once has that happened! Slahor Remedon Za’Abat are famous outside your country for helping those in need. If you want to join their ranks, you must first learn control. You say you want to assist those in need, yes?”
“Well, yes but – “
“Then dry your face and stand up, O’in. Show the world your strength.”
O’in paused a moment before meeting Aldo’s eyes. The fierceness in them told him his friend believed a change could be made. O’in smiled through his tears and nodded, “I must go to Akili first. I need to apologize for what I’ve done.”
“He’s very angry right now, O’in. He already told me not to allow him to see you. He knows we’re leaving right away and understands the need to get you to the Akademie right away.”
“But – “
“You can apologize when you come back. And you will come back here someday.”
O’in nodded, “If at least only to tell him how sorry I am. The sooner we leave, the sooner I can come back. When do we leave?”
Written By: Jenni Chan – Artwork By: Patryk Kowalik