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 woke to a rough hand covering his mouth as a shadowy figure wrapped ropes around his ankles and wrists. His surprised cry was muffled and he looked around wildly for help. Aldo’s blank eyes stared at him as his limp hand covered the gaping wound in his chest in vain. O’in tried to scream for Duskin, who was nowhere in sight, but one of the men binding him held a rust-colored dagger to his throat.
“D’ya want to join your friend over there? Make no sounds!” O’in’s blood froze at the familiar Slahorn accent. Wha- How did they find us?! They can’t take me back. Not now! We’re so close. I thought we were safe.
Panicked, O’in struggled to and break free from his captor. The knife dug into his throat stilling him. Eyes white with fear he felt for the fire that had been burning strong just a few hours before. Nothing but empty coldness reached him. He strained trying to find a single spark, but the fire was completely burnt out. He struggled once more until the dagger pierced his flesh.
“Move one more time and I’ll kill you,” one of his captors hissed in his ear. “Your father doesn’t care if you’re alive or dead when we bring you to him, though I have a feeling he’d rather end you himself by now. No one defies the Governor.”
O’in stopped struggling when one of the men shoved a piece of cloth in his mouth and tied it in place with a handkerchief. Tears finally breaking free slowly fell from his face to the soft ground below. Being this helpless scared him, and seeing his friend Aldo dead hurt even more. The two men picked him up, one at his feet the other carrying him under his arms, and flung him over the back of a horse waiting under a nearby tree. They tied him, face against the warm musky fur, like a blanket roll so that he couldn’t slide off and escape. One of the men mounted the horse and the other jumped on the back of a second that quietly stood nearby. They shushed the animals to prevent them from waking any of the other members from the silent caravans. O’in struggled to turn his head to catch a glimpse of the men’s faces, but it was the darkest part of the night when the moons had set and the sun was yet to rise.
The men kicked the camels into a run jostling their captive. O’in grunted as the backend of the horse jutted into his stomach repeatedly. With the blood rushing to his head and the constant punches to his gut, he slipped into blackness. A gush of water against his face woke him. He was on his back in a pile of rotting hay.
“Wash the fire out of him,” He heard his father say. O’ins innards turned to ice. He scrabbled against the floor until his head hit a wall. He struggled into a sitting position, clutching his sore stomach, and looked around him. He was back in the Chantha palace dungeons. His father stood outside the cell glaring through the open doorway. Chack stared at him, bucket in hand, with pleading eyes. “Don’t tell him I saved you before,” they seemed to say begging O’in to keep silent.
O’in turned away from his best friend and looked at his father, anger suddenly flaring within him. “I was safe,” he yelled, struggling to stand, and leaned against the wall once he was upright. “I was in a place where I couldn’t hurt you or destroy your reputation. I left, Father. I left so you wouldn’t need to live with the shame of a son like me. Let Allek be your heir and forget about me! Why can’t you just let me be? All I want to do is live a life without the fear I’ll hurt someone. I was nearly to a place that could teach me to use my magic properly. You had my friend killed! Why, Father? Why couldn’t you just let me go?”
His father frowned at his son, his face purple with rage, “Why?! You defied your father, your country, and your gods! You are an evil abomination of this land and I cannot allow you to live. What kind of leader would I be if I just let you go? The people rightly fear you.”
“Rightly? Unjustly is more than likely.” O’in spat.
The Governor bristled. “Chack, kill him.”
Chack faced O’in and pulled out his sword. Regret filled his eyes.
“Please, Chack. You can’t do this. You know it’s not right.”
“He’s right. You are an abomination to this land. It’s a mercy to kill you.” Chack said sadly.
O’in raised his hands in desperation finally noticing the burning torch behind his father. He reached for the flames begging them to leap to his father. Nothing happened. As Chack raised his sword to strike sweat began to pour down O’in’s face as he struggled to control the unresponsive fire. With a pain-filled cry Chack thrust his sword at O’in’s heart.
O’in screamed fighting against the blankets that wrapped around him. Cool hands tried to help, but through his fear he lashed out afraid, to open his eyes.
“Calm yourself,” Aldo yelled.
O’ins eyes snapped open at his friend’s voice. “Aldo, you’re alive!” His torso finally free of the blanket, he touched Aldo’s hand as it rested beside him just to be sure.
“Of course I am,” he snapped. “You were hollering loud enough to wake the dead. You had a nightmare and woke the whole camp!”
“It’s gone,” O’in cried. “My magic. It’s gone!” He struggled to free the blanket wrapped tightly around his leg.
“What,” Aldo said in surprise. “You can’t lose your powers from a dream. That’s all it was.”
“Feel for the embers in the campfire. If you feel them then you haven’t lost anything.”
O’in closed his eyes and felt towards the fire with his mind. Several sparks remained and he breathed a sigh of relief as he opened his eyes and looked to Aldo. “It’s still there.”
“As I said dreams do not steal magic.” He helped his charge finish unwrapping the blanket.
O’in stood and kicked the blanket off his foot. “Does anything take our magic away?
“Death, or so I’ve been told,” Aldo said lightly.
“Ah.” O’in rolled up his blankets and tied them down with two leather strips on either end. He grabbed Aldo’s already rolled blankets and threw them in the wagon window with the intent to put them under the bench when they started off.
“We should reach the Akademie this evening,” Aldo said as O’in helped Duskin hitch the horses. “You will like it there. Not only do other Slahor Remedon Za’Abat live there, but also Wajanderu Der Gefloget, Kosekyan Fili Aurorae, Rupanian Yundoh Lun’wui, and a few Narsputian Kaiwai’ta Ora. They all work together to learn as much as possible about their powers and experiment with mixing the elemental magics. It’s fascinating work.”
“If they experiment with magic, how will I learn anything if it’s not a school?”
“The Akademie has the highest concentration of Slahor Remedon Za’Abat so it has also become the learning center for all those who’ve escaped your country’s deserts. You’ll have a mentor that will show you how to use your powers and control that which would take over you.”
“A mentor,” O’in asked in confirmation as he secured the straps behind the horse’s ears and attached the reins to the bit while Duskin did the same to the second horse. “Someone from Slahor? What will they think when a Governor’s son shows up there?”
“That no one is immune to receiving gifts,” Aldo retorted.
O’in looked at him in surprise for a moment before opening the wagon door for his rescuer. He mounted the wagon once Aldo was seated and took his place on the bench opposite him. The two rode in silence as the day slowly passed them by. O’in spoke little as the day wore on. They only stopped briefly for a quick bite to eat and to water the horses when the sun was directly overhead. As the sky darkened that evening, the wagon topped a low hill revealing yet another wide valley in front of them.
“We’re here,” Duskin called back.
“Finally,” Aldo said. “Look out the window, O’in.”
Doing as he was told, O’in poked his head out of the small wagon window and breathed in the faint yet familiar scent of population. The valley held a large lake; a large city made from interconnected trees floated in the middle. Centuries old intertwining branches and roots created buildings and bridges. Snow was packed into gaps in the walls to protect occupants from the elements. The roots of the trees could be seen piercing through the water and ice to reach the fertile soil at the bottom of the lake. Some of the still living trees were just beginning to bud; their leaves starting to again grow on bare branches. Ice floated in lazy waves beside the wooden frame houses, sometimes bouncing off the buildings to little effect. Men and women, dressed warmly against the cold mountain air, moved around in their daily tasks.
Many of the floating buildings had different uses. Some of the buildings were huge and many people entered and exited with boxes; other buildings looked like entertainment halls as a group of musicians sat on the roof playing music. A few of the floating platforms didn’t even have buildings and looked looked as though they were used for farming. On the shore were several more buildings, such as a forge which spewed forth thick black smoke into the air giving off an illusion of warmth and a field that was currently being used by soldiers to practice marching. The shore of the city had plenty of buildings surrounding it, including the inn they were heading for.
“Is that the Akademie,” O’in asked pointing at wide towering building on the opposite side of the lake from the town.
Aldo smiled and peaked through the opposite window. He had to crane his neck to look backwards towards the building. “That is correct O’in. Welcome to your new home.”
Written By: Jenni Chan – Artwork By: Patryk Kowalik