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.
In the second Chapter, O’in learns how difficult it is to control his gift-curse, how easy it is to cause harm but how he can also do good with it. Aldo and O’in travel to Grunsee, one of the two Wajanderu cities, so that he may train his new abilities.
A large light stoned building topped by giant living Omigi trees towered over the wagon as Aldo, O’in, and Duskin made their way into the valley. Roots ran down the edges of the stone and buried themselves under the walls while branches on the topmost level reached toward the sky. Birds flew around the newly opened spring leaves as they readied their nests. Periodic platforms broke the forest effect of the unconventional roof. O’in wondered what they were for until he saw a man holding a glider run across a platform and leap off it. O’in jerked in surprise, his heart in his throat. He could only stare as the man fell for a moment before a magical wind carried him into the sky and off toward the mountains.
Aldo chuckled as he witnessed the flight, “There’s nothing like flying, O’in. I can take you for a flight one day, if you wish. To soar like the birds – there’s nothing else like it in this life.”
“My feet belong on firm soil,” O’in said as he stared at the Omigi roots clinging to the stone beside the wagon as it rumbled through the Akademie der Urkraft gates.
As the wagon moved under the portcullis, his gaze shifted to those milling around the courtyard. The wagon rounded a light gray stone fountain depicting five casters with their backs to each other forming a circle as they performed their different elemental magics. He stared at the Remedon Za’Abat of Slahor as the wagon stopped in front of it. The statue wore a loose fitted shirt tucked into a short skirt ending mid-thigh that was covered in studded leather strips. His hands were opened at his sides as they welcomed the flowing water around his legs that was shaped like flames and closed his eyes in bliss.
Aldo stepped down from the wagon and looked at the fountain. He smiled up at it as though greeting an old friend. “I see this fountain every time I visit the Akademie, but each time I notice something new and fascinating I’ve never seen before. Today it’s the way the Slahor Remedon Za’Abat seems so enraptured with the flames he’s standing in yet his shoulders are tense as if he’s fighting the urge to throw a fireball.”
“I know the feeling,” O’in said eyeing the strangers that glanced at him curiously. He stepped out of the wagon and shivered. “No matter how long I’m here I will never get used to this cold.”
“It’s barely spring,” Aldo shrugged. “You’ll be warmer in a few weeks.”
“Ah, Kayt,” Aldo exclaimed interrupting O’in. He bowed slightly to the woman walking quickly toward them. “There you are. I was meaning to look for you.”
Kayt smiled at Aldo in greeting. Her startling green eyes sparkled. Her hair was pinned in a loose bun at the crown of her head. The deep red woolen dress she wore just covered her ankles revealing black boots beneath. Her fair skin, hair and clothing affirmed her Kosekyan heritage.
“It has been too long since you last visited us, Aldo! I hope your travels have been pleasant and your trading profitable.” She looked curiously at O’in, who stood behind Aldo matching her gaze.
“Indeed on all counts. Let me introduce you to my charge.” He gestured for O’in to step forward. “He’s newly escaped from Slahor and is in dire need of learning control over his powers.”
“Ah,” Kayt smiled warmly at O’in. “A Fire Caster, then. Welcome! I am Kayt, leader of Akademie der Urkraft. You are most welcome here.”
O’in hesitantly mimicked Aldo’s bow. “I – Thank you. My name is O’in.”
“I’m sure you have a story to tell, but you needn’t worry here. If you wish to forget your past and start over we allow it. But,” Kayte warned, “crime is unacceptable and is met with banishment at best. You will be assigned a mentor to help you learn your powers, but until you master them, you must not perform any magic without a Remedon Za’Abat guiding you. As you can see most of our compound is made of living wood that has taken hundreds of years to train into what you see today.”
“Don’t worry,” O’in looked at his feet as he shuffled the edge of his sandaled toe into the dirt and blushed deeply. “I learned my lesson.”
Aldo smiled sadly, “He accidentally burned down Akili’s inn. I’ve since tried to help him resist temptation to reach out to fire, which he’s done well at, but I am no Remedon Za’Abat. I don’t have the knowledge or skill to teach him properly.”
Kayte gasped at the news of the loss, “Oh, dear. Well, I suppose that is a start, but I shall assign a mentor without delay. Can you show O’in to the Remedon Za’Abat living quarters? I think Zaiya would work well with him, and I’ll have her meet you both there. She’ll know where there is an empty room for our new caster to sleep. Your room is on the top floor, as always.”
“Fair enough. Thank you for your kindness, Kayt.” Aldo bowed once more before turning back to the wagon. “Duskin, please see to the horses and our belongings. I’ll come back shortly to help you unload everything and take it to our rooms.” He walked towards the building’s main entrance. O’in bowed awkwardly to Kayt and followed behind him.
Aldo led O’in through a small door in the the wide entrance. When the double doors were both open, they were wide and tall enough to easily admit two wagons side by side. The long entry hall matched the size and tunneled shape of the arched doors, echoing their footsteps, until it opened up into a grand hall. Casters milled around talking and laughing with each other as they eyed the newcomers while trying to act disinterested. O’in spun in a slow circle taking in the wide rectangular room with its high windows and strange furnishings as he tried to keep up with Aldo. Two staircases stood in each far corner; one spiraled up while the other led down. Aldo led him to the latter. As they descended, torches ensconced on the walls lit their way. O’in felt the Pull of the flames, but ignoring the temptation to perform magic was only slightly easier than it had been before.
The stairs led to a small sitting room lined with cream colored walls. A fire burned merrily in a large fireplace in the corner. Several chairs, a mix of plush and hard wood, stood around various tables and in front of the fire. The room was empty, but a long hallway continued past the room. Doors broke the walls at even intervals.
“You’ll be sleeping in one of the dorms down the hall, but we’ll wait here for Zaiya,” Aldo said sitting in a plush chair. He picked at a small hole that looked like a burn mark. “Sit. I don’t know how long it’ll take her to get here.”
O’in glanced at the fire before sitting in a hard-backed chair across from Aldo.
“Why are we in the basement? Does everyone try to hide Remedon Za’Abats where they can’t be seen,” he asked, somewhat bitterly.
Aldo roared in laughter after a momentary pause. O’in looked at him indignantly until he stopped to wipe his eyes on his sleeve. “No, boy. You probably noticed most of this building is made out of living trees. Wood and fire do not mix so Slahorn Casters are given the basement, which is made from stone, to prevent accidents.”
“Aren’t there any living quarters on the first floor? At least there would be natural light there. Burning torches create temptation.”
“That temptation will ease in time. And no, the first floor is communal space for eating, working, and merry making. Besides, there aren’t any drafts here so it’s warmer. Didn’t you notice?”
“Ah, well, yes. This place reminds me a bit of the box under the bench though.”
“That feeling will ease as well. Make friends with a Fili Aurorae. Just as you control fire, they control light. They can make it seem like you have sunlight streaming into your room from a window, if you ask nicely.”
O’in sat in silence. It was strange to be in a place where magic didn’t need to be hidden. It was practiced freely, flaunted even, out in the open. He smiled to himself. I could get used to this, he thought.
O’in jumped a little, startled, when footsteps sounded on the stairs as someone descended in a rush. A young woman about his age paused when she saw the two men. Her long dark hair swung at the sudden stop resting over her shoulder in its loose braid. She wore a simple rust colored linen dress with a blue sash tied around her waist as a belt. The dress, ending at her knees, swung loosely to allow for free movement. One of her sandals slipped off her foot but she pulled it back on with annoyance, her leg pausing mid-air as she squinted at O’in as though she vaguely remembered him. Confusion rippled across her face as she looked at him only to be replaced by deepest loathing.
“Kayt must be joking,” she said angrily as she turned and ran back up the stairs and out of sight.
Aldo turned to O’in in confusion, “What was that all about? Do you know her?”
O’in shrugged, “No idea. I’ve never seen her before.”
“Well,” he grunted as he stood up. “Let’s go find Kayt and clear this up.”
The men didn’t have to look far. As they reached the landing they overheard Kayt’s conversation.
“Zaiya, why can’t you teach the boy? He needs direction just as much as you did when you first arrived. You know how difficult control is for Remedon Za’Abat. It’s your responsibility, so whatever he did to offend you needs to be forgotten,” Kayt said coolly to woman gesturing angrily in front of her.
“His father killed my parents,” Zaiya yelled, her voice echoing through the large room, her fists clenched tightly. The quiet discussions surrounding them paused as those around them watched the two women openly.
O’in paused, one foot on the landing and the other on the step below. A terrifying coldness swept through him. Had his past caught up with him so quickly?
“When I was accused of being a caster, they saved me by confessing that it was them when it was really me,” Zaiya continued. Tears streamed down her cheeks dripping onto her dress. She brushed them away angrily and pointed at O’in. “The Governor, his father, declared them traitors and had them stripped and dumped in the hottest and most desolate part of the desert without food or water. No one could survive.”
O’in stepped forward and said quietly, “I am not my father. He wished me to be skinned alive when he found out what I was. If not for the treason committed by my best friend and Aldo’s kindness, I’d already be dead.”
“I saw you sitting next to your father when my parents were sentenced to death,” Zaiya said, her teeth clenched in fury. “You sat there and stared at them like they were nothing! You hold the same power they were killed for and yet showed no mercy. How can you even call yourself human?”
“Don’t you think I would have saved them if I could?” O’in yelled back. “I didn’t know what I was until a few weeks ago. And you don’t know my father. His children must be perfect in every way. If one flaw is shown, one hint of imperfection, we were beaten until we bled, and before the blood even stopped flowing, we were forced to practice our battle stances until either the twin moons rose or the sun, whichever was the longer term. I was arrested the second I told him about my powers. I could have hidden it from him, but did I? I knew I would be punished for it but didn’t expect him to kill me.” He brushed away his own tears that threatened to fall. “I’m his damned eldest son, his heir, and yet that didn’t matter to him at all.”
“Then you should have taken that punishment.”
“Enough,” Kayt interrupted sharply. She eyed the onlookers until they bowed their heads and turned away from the scene before them. Zaiya and O’in glared at each other; she with loathing and he with a pleading pain asking her to understand. “Zaiya, you will take O’in for testing to find out the extent of his powers and from there teach him control. Each of you came here to start anew and to forget the pain of the past, no? Zaiya, if you decline to take him as your student then, to me, it is as if you’ve rejected your place here. You will no longer be welcome in the Akademie. Do I make myself clear?
Zaiya took a deep breath, her eyes never leaving O’in’s. “Perfectly, but I will not make things easy for his royal self. He will learn what sacrifice is.”
Kayt sighed, “So be it. Zaiya, take a break and meet O’in inside the Slahor practice grounds in the morning. If you’re not there, I expect your room to be cleared out.”
“You don’t think Zaiya will try to hurt me during training, do you?” O’in asked the next morning as Aldo guided him to the training grounds.
“No.” Aldo walked with his hands clasped behind his back. “She won’t go easy on you, to be sure, but I doubt she’ll willingly harm you. From what Kayt told me about her after you left the hall, she is an honorable and trustworthy person.”
“I guess we’ll see.”
Aldo stopped outside a small wooden door set into a thick stone wall. The wall curved around on either side of the entrance. He opened the door, which was just wide enough for one person to enter, and gestured for O’in to go in. “This is where I leave you. It is customary that each caster only enter the training grounds for their specific country. I will not offend Remedon Za’Abat by joining you.”
“But I’m sure they’d understand with the circumstances as they are…”
“No. I cannot.” He clapped his hand on O’in’s shoulder and smiled encouragingly. “You will be fine.”
O’in took a deep breath and ducked through the door, shutting it behind him.
Written By: Jenni Chan – Artwork By: Patryk Kowalik