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.
O’in stared dejectedly out the wagon window as it bumped over the rocky landscape. He found it difficult to not use his magic as it wanted to seep out of his pores, but after setting fire to Akili’s inn it was necessary to keep the power in check until he learned more control. The land seemed deceptively flat to him, but as the wagon rolled over the crest of a low hill, a breathtaking view of a shallow valley lay before them. The Yao Feng Divide to their right looked like low hanging clouds while below them a wide, sandy, and shallow river split the valley in two. On both sides of it were flat plains full of grass and multi-colored wildflowers waving in the winds. A herd of deer fed on the sweet flora. O’in didn’t notice the beauty before him and stared only at the ground beside the wagon wheels as they rolled over stones and kicked up dust. Aldo stared at him, concern creating a line in between his eyebrows.
“O’in, You really don’t have to be so worried about Akili’s Inn. You’ll be able to go back and apologize once your magic is trained” Aldo said.
With a disheartened sigh O’in looked up. “How long will that take? I want to help him rebuild.”
The corner of Aldo’s mouth rose in a faint smile. “I think it best you don’t return until after the building has been completed. His anger runs deep, but you returning with control over your magic will help alleviate his temper the next time you visit. My guess is that Akili will add more stone to the structure to prevent this from happening again. Each time I bring a new Remedon Za’Abat from Slahor similar things always happen, though typically not to that extent.”
“I’m making more work for you. Why did you leave the caravan? I could have made this journey myself.”
“The caravan needs to deliver the merchandise to Ilia, Rupani’s capital. We’re headed the opposite direction. No point in the goods going the wrong way. As for you making your way to Grunsee yourself? That’s not a good idea. An untrained Remedon Za’Abat traveling through wooded lands when he doesn’t know where he’s going?” Aldo scoffed. “Besides, I have friends at the Akademie that I haven’t seen in far too long. It’d be nice to visit with them again.”
“I suppose.” Guilt pulled at O’in and he was more determined to prove himself. I will return to Akili’s inn, he thought, and show a man in control of his magic. Though I can’t help him rebuild, when I next see him, I will do everything I can to help him while I am there even if it means eating that blasted fish head sandwich, eyes and all!
His mood slightly better, O’in finally looked at the scene before him, its beauty taking his breath away. As the wagon rolled into the valley, the deer ran to the safety of the trees surrounding the lowlands, pausing as they watched the travelers pass by. Once the wagon reached the river, the driver halted and jumped off his bench. “Boy,” he hollered at O’in who’d become his assistant during the journey. “Unharness the horses and water them, then picket them in the grass so they can eat while we take our midday meal.”
O’in jumped out of the wagon and did as he was bid. By the time the horses were watered and fed, the sun was high in the sky beating down on them as a light breeze passed through the valley making the grass sway. The scent of smoke and cooking stew permeated the air mixing with the faint sweetness of the flowers. O’in closed his eyes and sensed the world around him. The singing of birds were faintly heard from the treeline along with the rustling grass, munching horses, and trickling water.
This place is different from my home, he thought. It’s so calm and serene here. It’s a complete opposite of Slahor. It was hard leaving for a new place, but if I weren’t here I’d be dead. I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to return after I have mastered my power to show everyone that it’s not an evil curse. I don’t know what Aldo is thinking but to try and return would get me killed.
“The soup should be ready soon boy. If you want to eat you probably should wake soon.” The coachman said not noticing that he was still awake. O’in slowly started to sit up as he looked at the man and Aldo sitting around the fire.
“How long until we actually get to the Akademie anyway?” O’in asked curiously as he stood and walked over to the fire. His magic reacted to the flames but he continued to resist the urge to use his magic to prevent it from going out of control. He sat on the ground forcing himself to look to Aldo rather than stare into the campfire.
“About two days still, O’in.” Aldo looked at him with a concerned look. He noticed how his charge kept glancing at the fire. “We need to find a temporary way to keep your magic in control until you’re trained properly”
O’in sighed in annoyance, “What do you suggest?”
“First, let’s eat. Then we’ll figure something out.”
After the three men finished their simple vegetable and rabbit soup, the driver moved to check on the horses while Aldo had O’in douse the campfire with water from the river.
“The first thing you must learn,” Aldo spoke as steam and smoke billowed into the air. “Is that the temptation to use your magic is very strong. You must learn to control that urge even if it means destroying that which powers your talents. One last bucketfull should be enough.” He watched as his charge filled the bucket to the brim and poured it over the embers. “Good. Now stand here and concentrate on the wood. Tell me if you can feel any last remnants of fire.”
O’in stared unblinking at the ashes looking for any sign of life within them. Several minutes passed before he found a single spark. “There,” he pointed. “I can bring the flames back to life. I can feel it! All I have to do is -“
“No! You must resist. Stare at the ember but do nothing.”
O’in did as instructed though sweat poured down his face with the effort. The temptation to inflate the flame and command it to ignore the dampness surrounding it was overwhelming. His fists clenched and his muscles began to shake as though with fever. Just as it became too much to bear and the thought came unbidden to his mind to command the fire to return, the spark died. The suddenness of its departure broke the spell of his concentration. He sat down hard still staring at the now dead ashes.
“Good,” Aldo complimented him. While O’in was staring at the ember he’d filled the bucket once more in case of failure. He threw the water over the ashes for good measure. “I could see you wavering there towards the end.”
“I couldn’t help it. My mind seemed to not care what I wanted. I could feel my arm reaching out with the need to command the flames back to life.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing the fire’s spell on you broke when it did. I also wanted to be sure the fire was completely out before we leave. This valley is one of the more beautiful we’ll see on our journey so it would be a shame if we burned it because of an errant campfire.”
O’in grinned. “I used my magic to help?”
Aldo laughed. “That you did, Boy. Now go help Duskin hitch up the horses. It’s time to continue. We should arrive at the Akademie tomorrow, barring any delays.”
Throughout the rest of the day, the path that the wagon followed slowly turned from faint wheel tracks bending the grass to a dirt road as other trails merged with it. That night they camped with four caravans creating a wheel around a large campfire. One carried a troupe of Rupanian musicians who created an impromptu concert with their high-pitched drums, low-pitched flutes, and a strange stringed instrument the artist held on her lap to play. Her clear soprano blended perfectly with the music creating a heartbreaking melody about lost love. The women from the other groups held handkerchiefs to their eyes and called for happier songs once the music stopped. The troop obliged happily creating a festive atmosphere. O’in forgot about the fire as he clumsily learned steps to various tunes. His laughter filled the night as it hadn’t since before his powers manifested. Aldo smiled to himself as he watched his charge have fun for the first time in weeks.
The gathering didn’t calm down until late that evening. As new friends climbed to their beds, Aldo sat down next to O’in, who was sitting on the tail end of their wagon staring at the sky. He wrapped his arms around one leg as he propped it on the wood next to him and let the other swing free.
“They burn too,” O’in said as he gestured at the stars. “I don’t know how I know it, but they do.”
Aldo looked at the stars curiously. “I hadn’t heard that before nor have I heard any other Remedon Za’Abat mention it. You did very well controlling your magic tonight. The fire didn’t seem to pull on you as much.”
“I think it was because I was too distracted by the dancing. We don’t dance like that in Slahor,” He turned to Aldo. “We don’t really dance at all! It’s just ‘defeat our neighbor in battle’ or when not fighting we practice at it. The only fun we have is either sparring or watching mock battles while someone sings about it. I’m tired of bloodsport.”
“Where we’re going there will be more dancing and more laughter. Tonight was just a taste of what’s to come. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy at Akademie der Urkraft, but you will have time to enjoy your life there a little. Well,” Aldo added with a mischievous look. “I suppose you might have time for fun depending on your assigned mentor,”
“If it means I learn how to control my magic I don’t mind working hard.”
“Don’t work yourself too hard, O’in. You’ll burn out,” Aldo chuckled to himself.
O’in looked at him blankly for a moment before rolling his eyes and grinning broadly. “That was horrible.”
“It wasn’t so bad. Now go to sleep. We have a long day ahead of us.”
“Yes. More bumpy roads I take it?”
“It will start to get better when we’re closer to the Akademie, so get some rest while we’re not moving.”
“That’s good to hear.” O’in jumped off the rear wagon seat and went into the wagon to pull two sets of rolled blankets from underneath the bench where he’d hidden during his escape from Slahor. He handed one to Aldo and unrolled his own makeshift bed beside the wagon between Aldo and Duskin. He laid down on his back, linking his arms behind his head, and stared at the stars feeling their fire until he drifted off to sleep.
Written By: Jenni Chan – Artwork By: Patryk Kowalik