The fire tender

I have a job to do. The cold creeps around me like the monster it is, always waiting, always worming its way into the circle where we share stories and meals.

They sleep. I watch. This is Chesowanja, and I am the fire tender. Others share my task. Denjoween, Hamrath, Scordus, and Yunnan. They gave us a great task. We who keep the cold at bay, and the sparks from dancing too wildly. We are the ones who fight the most insidious enemy. The nature of flames.

The fire went out once. But first it roared like a lion. Before I was born there came a great wind. In those times, they used to keep the fire alive in a different place. Under the stars, closer to flat places. The cold was great in that season and much snow fell. They had stored enough wood to keep the flames alive through the worst of it.

It betrayed my tribe. Approaching slowly, like a friend, the wind fed the heat with breezes. The fire flickered and danced while most slept. The tender was an old woman, so said my uncle. After, they took her name and threw it away.

Uncle said she drank too much of the heavy milk. It made her tired. The wind tricked her with its gentle caresses. She closed her eyes, thinking it would only be for a moment. But the moment became a minute. The minute turned legion. Then the wind whispered to a spark. The spark followed its nature and jumped across the old woman, landing where the wind guided it. Sparks like to be lied to. They want to fly more than they want anything. I think they know how short their lives are.

We keep them closer now. We have our Way. It must be spoken each time we begin our task, and each time we pass the duty.

We tend the moments, we stir the flickers, we know that the cold wind lies in whispers, waiting. Chance and circumstance are our enemies, and we are vigilant. Keepers of the light and masters of ash, we are the fire tenders. Never will the spark be left alone, never will we stray from the circle that must be guarded.

The old woman whose name was taken from us burned up in the cold. Many others burned. Denjoween, Hamrath, Scordus, Yunnan and I each carry a scorched finger bone with us as a reminder that sparks are demons and the wind is a liar.

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The author

Pen has been writing in a professional capacity for two decades. He started his career as a combat correspondent in the U.S. Marines.

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