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.
O’in groaned as he scrubbed the floor of his quarters with a brush the size of his first finger. The brush was normally used for polishing silver, but his father deemed it perfectly acceptable to clean the wood floor of his quarters. O’in thought it best to start with his sleeping chamber and work outwards to the rest of his rooms so the floor would be dry by the time he finished. Dusty footprints on a wet floor would create more work in the end.
His sleeping chamber was a large square room. O’in paused a moment to scan the room before returning to his cleaning. He was in the corner staring diagonally at the door with its vine and flower carvings. Beside it sat his guard, and friend, Chack, to watch over his punishment. To his left were two large windows, shutters open to the warm evening. The sun was setting, but its light still shone softly into the room. To his immediate right, stood the raised four poster bed with netting tied back to each post. At night, the cloth would be closed to prevent biting insects from attacking him. O’in felt the bed too big as he and his three brothers could sleep comfortably side by side, but blushed as he thought that when he married it would seem too small. On the wall across from the foot of the bed was a small fireplace used for light, incense, and a bit of heat in the cool nights. The mantle above held several small porcelain jars containing powders that could be combined and thrown into the fire to create different scents. Some were used to soothe, others to excite, and still another to prepare for battle. The small fire burned merrily, having been recently lit in preparation of the setting sun.
“This is going to take all night,” O’in complained to himself thinking of his outer rooms that had yet to even be swept for the day. Chack smirked at seeing the future governor on his hands and knees. O’in was one of the finest warriors of his generation, but Chack was of the same age and good enough to keep him on his toes when they practiced together in the yard. As such, they sparred often and were fast companions.
“You missed a spot,” Chack said pointing vaguely toward the corner O’in started in. He scratched an invisible blemish on his leather breastplate that he wore over a dark green linen shirt. Shiny steel studs were imbedded across the armor to turn weapons. His family crest was pressed onto the leather at the right shoulder, a falcon with a rose in its talons. Unlike most warriors, Chack preferred dark green pants with leather greaves over them rather than the usual leather pteruges.
“Likely not,” O’in stopped scrubbing and sat back on his haunches to stretch his back. “I cleaned over there until I could see your oily face reflecting back at me even though you’re sitting across the room.” He looked back at the offending corner and tilted his head. “Hmm. It could use a bit more polishing, now that I look at it again. Here,” He stood and grabbed a dry cloth from the edge of the washing bucket, heading towards Chack. “Let me use some of that oil to make the floor shine more!” He lunged toward his best friend, cloth first. Grabbing him by the shoulder with his left hand, he tried to rub the cloth against Chack’s face, but his friend reacted quickly, blocking O’in’s right hand with his left. The two fought against each other, muscles popping, trying to best the other. After a few moments, they released and backed up.
“That all you got,” Chack taunted with a smirk.
“You wish,” O’in grinned back.
They lunged at each other again, grabbing each other’s shoulders trying to force his opponent to give ground. Chack suddenly jumped just past O’in with one leg in an attempt to knock his legs out from under him. O’in let go of his friend’s shoulders and lept backwards to avoid ending up on his back but tripped over the bucket that was left in the middle of the floor. He fell backwards, arms pinwheeling in a vain attempt at balance. Chack’s look of amusement turned to panic as O’in hit the floor hard, his head landing in the fire and bouncing off the burning wood, sending up sparks. O’in screamed expecting to feel fiery pain, but stopped when none came and watched in shock as Chack picked up the bucket and threw the remaining water onto the fire. It wasn’t enough to put out the flames, so he grabbed O’in by the arms and pulled him from the fire expecting to see charred skin.
O’in looked up in amazement as he felt no pain.Did it burn so deep I can’t feel anything? Chack stared, eyes wide. He dropped the bucket and looked at his friend in utter fear as he backed up.
“Do I look that bad,” O’in asked, surprised his voice worked. He felt his cheeks and started at the cool whole skin he touched. “I need a shave,” he said, shocked into making a joke.
“Remedon Za’Abat!” Chack cried out in a choked voice. He’d backed up to the wall next to his chair. He sat as if all strength left him.
“What,” O’in exclaimed in disbelief. “No!” Remedon Za’Abat was the name given to citizens who practiced the evil art of fire magic. Those blasphemous men and women were put to death immediately and left in the desert to feed wild dogs. They would not be allowed the honor of giving their bodies to the fire when their soul left the remains. Only those who lived properly and followed the laws of the gods could live out eternity reliving their best days in their youthful prime. Being Remedon Za’Abat meant banishment to all those who could escape execution. O’in felt small inside as he and Chack stared at each other in silence. He thought frantically.I don’t want to die! How can this be? He won’t tell anyone, right? No. He must’ve moved quickly enough with the water that I didn’t get burned. That has to be it! My hair has to be at least singed, right?
“I need a mirror,” he whispered.
“Wh-what?” Chack started.
“A mirror. I am not Remedon Za’Abat. It’s impossible! Men of my blood are always honorable. Get me a mirror, now!”
Chack rushed off to find a looking glass in O’in’s dressing room. He returned quickly carrying the small hand mirror and shoved it into O’in’s hand. He held it up, examining his face closely. Not a single hair was shriveled. Soot marked his face in places, but he rubbed it off painlessly. “This cannot be.”
Gritting his teeth, he turned back to the fire and stuck his arm up to the elbow into the embers. Chack choked in surprise as O’in let the remaining flames lick his skin. Tears filled their eyes as they looked at each other and O’in whispered, “I am a monster.”
O’in and Chack sat at the table in the Governor-Heir’s outer chamber. Chack sat back in his chair with his arms lying limply on the armrests. O’in picked at his charred sleeve as the cloth wasn’t impervious to flames.
“I have betrayed my people,” O’in said. His friend glanced at him then stared at the table once more, saying nothing. That silence told O’in that Chack agreed with the statement. His heart fell into black despair. “What do I do,” he asked himself outloud.
“The only honorable thing that’s left to you now,” Chack said, his normally vibrant voice dull. Honorable to Remedon Za’Abat meant to travel out into the desert and let the elements take them. Suicide by weapon was only given to the respectable elders as it was considered esteemed so they would no longer be a burden to their city and family. Their bodies would be allowed to be consigned to fire and their ashes spread to the four winds.
O’in sighed, “Then I must tell Fah why his heir is not worthy of his Seat. Allek was always better suited to be Governor anyway.”
“Yes, he is.” A faint smile crossed Chack’s lips only to fall quickly. It was not the time for making light of the situation.
They sat still for a few moments until O’in sniffed and stood, pushing himself up with his hands on the table. His chair scraped too loudly against the floor. He walked around the table and towards the door, determined. Chack suddenly rushed to him and grabbed him into a tight hug before holding him at arm’s length. He stared at O’in’s face as if to memorize it one last time.
“Be well, my friend,” O’in said then walked out the door. Just before turning the corner he looked back at Chack, who stood, back to the door, with his face in one hand and shoulders shaking in grief.
O’in made his way through the hallway and past Allek’s rooms. The quietness told O’in his brother was already asleep, though the two guards on either side of the door nodded to him in respect.I suppose it is late, he thought as he glanced at a torch on the wall that was nearly burned to embers.Perhaps I should talk to Fah in the morning, but as he neared his father’s chambers he heard indistinguishable voices coming from within. O’in sighed and steeled himself as he passed his father’s guards and knocked on the door.
“Enter,” the Governor replied, his tone happy. O’in entered to find his father and stepmother, Alami, sitting in comfortable chairs by the fire. After his mother died in childbirth five years ago, his father wasted no time in looking for a new bride. Alami, at twenty, was barely older than O’in but acted much older towards her stepsons.
“Have you finished with your punishment already,” the Governor asked.
“No, Fah, but -”
“Then I suggest you go back to your rooms and continue before I have you beaten like a child,” the Governor’s tone was pleasant, but his gaze towards O’in was dangerous.
“Yes, Fah, I’ll go right away, but something has happened,” O’in rushed quickly before his father could interrupt him.
“Oh? Something happened as you scrubbed the floor,” the Governor scoffed as his face turned redder and his voice grew louder with each word. “Pray tell me what news have you heard? Did a bit of dust tell you we’re to be attacked by Wajan gliders? Gods, boy! Must you create nonsense to get out of every punishment?! How dare you ruin my pleasant evening with your laziness,” Alami giggled elegantly behind her hand.
“Fah, I don’t burn!” O’in burst out.
His father paused, “What do you mean you don’t burn?”
“I-i fell into the fire and I didn’t get burned.”
The Governor sat silently and stared at the burnt collar of his son’s tunic, his face turned to stone. “GUARDS,” he roared.
The guards rushed in, spears at the ready, surprised to find the Governor standing and pointing at his son. “Hold him,” he commanded. The guards glanced ever so briefly at each other before obeying. They grasped O’in by each arm and held him firmly with their spears in attention in the crooks of their opposite elbow. The Governor stood and grabbed a brand from the fire.
“You’d better be lying, Boy, or this is really going to hurt,” his father thrust the brand onto O’in’s stomach and held in there. O’in grimaced at the stick digging painfully into his skin, but felt no pain otherwise. His tunic caught quickly and bits of burning cloth fell at his feet. The guards let go of him in shock and backed away quickly, brandishing their spears at him. Alami jumped up and moved behind her chair, one hand raised to her mouth in shock.
The Governor dropped the brand and backed up a few steps; his face was a mix of anger, grief, fear, and passion. O’in’s tunic finally fell off him. His skin was unmarked save by soot.
“I have betrayed us, Fah,” he said quietly.
“Take him away,” the Governor said just as softly. “Take him to the dungeons until I decide what to do with him.”
Written By: Jenni Chan – Artwork By: Patryk Kowalik