Genesis Scrolls Round 2: {The Stranger and the Three Fires 1/2}

Name: Banners
Eth Address: 0xE445d3Ef20aB80FB091e1A64279604C399b18c64

{The Stranger & The Three Fires 1/2}

“LolaShar!” A deep voice bellowed off the water from the ledge above.

“I am almost done!” A girl’s voice replied.

“You should not be doing that!”

“You do not seem to mind when I sell them, Papa.” She yelled this back at him. They couldn’t see each other, but she grinned and jammed her blade into another clam.

Lola sat dripping at the back of the alcove carved by tides and waves over millennia. She picked a pearl from the mollusc, held it up to examine, and then set it into a depression in the rock that made a natural stone bowl.

“LolaShar. Now.”

The girl grabbed the pile and dropped them in a small leather pouch. With the drawstrings pulled tight, Lola rose and dove gracefully from the ledge into the sea. Floating on her back, Lola gently propelled herself through the clear water and into view of her father. Long black hair waved at her side, and the saltwater lapped over her olive skin as she fluttered her feet. It didn’t take her long to exit the water on a low rock shelf and scale the step-like formations back toward her father, who watched in silence except for his grinding teeth. His disapproving look and crossed arms seemed ineffective on his defiant daughter as she climbed, grinning ear to ear. The creases in his brow were emphasized by a retreating hairline and his look of admonishment.

“You can not pearl dive, Lola. The Flame-keepers… You are almost twelve Longsuns.” He said when she had rejoined him topside.

“I know, Papa. Emberlaw,” Lola replied with professed remorse. “Fire is light. The sea is darkness.”

Her father did not buy the daughter-wide eyes she was casting his way.

The pair trudged back through the wooded trail toward their village.

“Shake yourself dry,” The father commanded, “Why I let your mother teach you to swim, I do not know.” He muttered with a look to the sky.

“Look, Papa!” She opened the pouch and held it for him to see, and he failed to contain a proud smirk.

“Get these pearls hidden when you get back.” His voice was more direct this time.

The father and child, though barely a child, hiked southwest for half an hour. Lola, despite her brashness, made sure to partake in her briny adventures well away from town.

The forest opened upon a collection of yurts arranged around a large stone fire pit. In the centre, three hollow stone spires roughly seven feet tall spewed a slim but ferocious blaze another two feet higher. Their tapered base had an opening where community elders fed logs dipped in various oils depending on the wood and the weather. The Flame-keepers worked their fires sleeveless. The disfigured skin of their arms was white from shoulder to hand, contrasting the sun-kist olive skin they and the entire village had from the long summers of the region. The disfigurations weren’t random scars but intricate designs painted in heat and pain.

The sea gently lapped at a sandy beach to the west, about two hundred yards away. Lola had always avoided the town-adjacent beach in favour of secluded escapes. Why a people would live so close to their sworn enemy was something that kept her up at night; maybe that was the point, she had concluded once.

The town bustled with activity around the spire. Some talked and cooked. Others sat on large stones strewn around the fire. At one end of the village were a set of posts where a collection of painted horses were tied and being brushed and fed by children. It was a pleasant and bustling place full of people devout to the flame. Lola and her father turned well before the spires and headed to their yurt.

“NitoShar!” Came a booming voice from behind. Lola looked up to her father and watched his eyes close in frustration.

Nito turned to face the voice, as did Lola. She grabbed his hand in the process and squeezed it, not out of her unease but to comfort her father. The voice belonged to one of the Flame-keepers who stood with his hand outstretched, and a small rosy pearl pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

Lola looked to the keeper’s side and stared daggers at MiMoShar, who met Lola’s eyes for a moment, then lowered his gaze in shame.

“Snitch,” Lola mouthed in the direction of MiMo before turning back to her father. “It is okay, Papa. I do not mind.” She let go of his hand and walked back to the spires. Sharp eyes went to RinShar first, the Flame-keeper who held the pearl and then at MiMo, his grandson. She plopped on a stone with resolute stoicism and pulled her shirt over her head. A series of scars in various stages of healing marked nearly the whole of the exposed back.

“Bring me the drake tail,” Rinshar called to a junior keeper with just a hint of enjoyment. A young woman with an arm half-covered in pale, intentional scars darted away and returned with the implement.

Rin wrapped his fingers around the wooden handle and let the eight leather lashes fall to his side. He was above average height, but the tails of it still brushed the ground. They whistled during a half-powered practice swing before his attention turned to Lola’s exposed back. As an older man, one might expect the strikes from Rin to be tolerable, but the entire town winced and looked away after the first. Nito, most of all.

Lola’s jaw clenched when the first landed. A bead of sweat formed along her forehead with the second, but no sound came from her lips and no expression washed over her face. After the third and final strike snapped across her back, LolaShar quietly let out held breath, and Nito opened his eyes.

After a long minute, Rin finally spoke, which gave Lola a chance to conspicuously blink away her tears.

“The sea is darkness, LolaShar.”

“And the fire is light. Thank you, RinShar.” She said, with the sharpness only an adolescent could deliver. “But I think that is wrong. The sea could provide–”

“That is Elder RinShar,” he interrupted.

“Elder, RinShar.” She conceded in rancour.

He frowned in disapproval before turning to address those who had gathered to witness the punishment.

“At the dawn of time, she rose to blaze across the sky for the first time. On her firstday, the Sun lit our spires. We are the ancient flames. We are the house of Three Fires, and Emberlaw is our creed. To enter the sea is to break Emberlaw. The sea is cold, and fire is warmth. The sea is darkness, and fire is light. We must not offend her. The sea exists to choke our flames. It brings only pain and suffering to our people. We must remember our sister VaiShar.”

Most of the townspeople shook their heads, but Lola pulled a bit of strength from the mention of the myth.

She pulled her shirt back on and walked straight past her father. Knowing all eyes were on her, she did her best to hide the arch in her back as she walked. Lola had done this enough to know pulling off a blood-wet shirt was almost as painful as the lashings.

“That child has a spirit like none I have seen, Nito.”

“I know, Elder Rin. I do not know what to do.”

“She will bring terrible things upon our people.”

NiTo wanted to respond but bit his tongue. Lola, who had stopped and looked back, could see her father’s jaw pulsing.

“If she transgresses after the kiss, we will have no choice but to banish her,” RinShar said matter-of-factly.

Nito frowned as he nodded. As he left, he cast a worried eye toward BoShar. Rin gave the drake tail a little twirl before returning it to the attendant keeper.

“By Emberlaw, a child on their twelfth Longsun shall receive the kiss of the coals.” BoShar, head of the three Flame-keepers, bellowed to the entire town who had convened around the spire pit.

“Please step forward and present your shale, LolaShar.” Lola stepped forward, carrying a chunk of rock the size of her two hands. A wry smile crept across her face as she bowed, presenting a rock she’d secretly pulled from the seafloor. To her right, Rin looked on with disdain. Bo took her sea-shale, laid it on a flat rock, and struck it with a stone mallet. He did this several times, shaping Lola’s seastone into a sharp edge on one side. He placed the newly-formed piece into the red coals at the pit’s edge and turned back to the crowd.

“LolaShar, daughter of NitoShar and Li-Ti-Shar, of Ash,” Bo began to proclaim as father and daughter locked mournful eyes. “Today, you will receive the kiss of the coals. Do you accept the fire as your friend?”

“Yes.” Came the unconvincing reply.

Bo signalled for quiet until the only sounds were the soft lapping of flames and a gentle wind that whistled through the yurts. Lola shuffled in her spot before Bo finally turned and pulled on thick leather gloves. He retrieved Lola’s sharp-edged stone from the coals and held it above his head for the town to see. Lola sat on the flat chair-stone and presented her sleeveless arm to the head flame-keeper. He pressed the shale flat against her skin and scraped downward, lightly burning it and smearing it black with charcoal. Then he turned the stone edge-wise and proceeded to carve 3 rudimentary flame symbols into her upper arm. Only a clenched jaw came from Lola as she received the kiss of the coals.

When he had finished, Bo picked up a jug filled with sand and poured it over her arm as the charcoal and blood washed away, leaving only the red and blistered flames.

“The sea is cold, and the fire is warmth.” He called ceremoniously.

“The sea is darkness, and the fire is light.” The townsfolk answered in unison.

As the chatter of townsfolk grew at the conclusion of another rite of passage, Bo leaned into Lola.

“Please, Lola. You must not go into the sea again. Rinshar is a keeper and has passed the Trial of the Flame. I cannot help you if–”

“I Understand, Elder BoShar. I will not. I promise.”

They nodded mutual respect before she rose, careful not to coddle her arm. A look of contempt made its way toward Rin, who retorted in kind.

For the next six months, Lola kept her promise. Though she skirted at the edges of Emberlaw, she had stayed out of the sea. She fished from the rocks that overlooked her sea cave and collected shellfish from the tide pools. A few times, she swung on a vine that would drop her into the sea if it snapped. Watching his daughter around, but not in the ocean, only accelerated NiTo’s hairline recession.

Lola woke to the sound of her roof violently flapping, creating a deafening thunder inside the tent. Her father wasn’t in his bed, but it wasn’t unusual for him to rise before her. NiTo wasn’t a keeper but a decent oilist and would help the keepers with different fuels for their logs. He had always told Lola the best time to work flame was in the still morning when the fires weren’t affected by the environment.

It was anything but still on this morning. The straps that held their leather door were barely hanging on. Lola struggled with the taut lines before stumbling out of her tent and looking to the sky. Swirling darkness surrounded the town and stretched for miles on either side and out over the sea. In the distance, in any direction, Lola could see large debris flying cyclically, things that had no right to be airborne. Trees, cabins, and livestock were helplessly whisked up into the storm. The wind-walls were closing in on the town, and LolaShar frantically looked for her father amid the chaos of bodies running in every direction.


“LOLASHAR!” The father and daughter met among the scrambling townsfolk. He looked at her, parental despair wide in his eyes.

“THE CELLARS!” He yelled, pointing to where the Flame-keepers had their tents. The undercrofts were usually meant to house winter stores, even though winters were mild, but Nito wasn’t the only one thinking of taking refuge in the underground pantry.

Lola looked and saw a man struggling to get in. Rin barred his passage. It was impossible to hear, but ‘there is no room’ was easily deduced. Rin kicked the man in the gut, driving him back. Horror and hopelessness were thick on the face of the denied man, but it didn’t matter. A large yurt-pole burst through his head, almost perfectly in one ear and out the other. Life didn’t leave him immediately; he slowly went to his knees and eased into death, looking at Rin the entire time. Rin looked around but covered his head and retreated underground, slamming the horizontal door behind him.

Lola and Nito glanced back at each other, and NiTo’s eyes widened. He tackled his daughter to the ground as an entire yurt filled with wind boomed past. It snared a woman further down its path, and together they were hurled up into the sky. The body fell back when her shirt tore, but the deafening storm covered the sound of her landing.

“COME. THIS WAY!” She shouted only a foot from his face and pulled him to his feet. Nito let his arm come up, taking in the pale flame scars on her upper arm, before moving in pursuit. She led him through the forest to the rocky ledges of her pearling grounds.

Lola leaned in and yelled directly into his ear over the roaring storm.


Nito stared back at his brave daughter, but decades of Emberlaw held him in place.

She cursed something, then grabbed his arm and pulled him over the ledge. Their hands broke apart when they hit the water, but both surfaced near one another in the rumbling black sea. He matched her overhand strokes toward the seaside cave before they clamoured up some jagged rocks in the tumultuous surf crashing around them. They clambered to the cave’s end with only a few scrapes, out of the water and storm.

“What…What is this storm?” Nito asked rhetorically.

“I do not know, but I am glad Mama taught you to swim too,” Lola replied, thankful. She wasn’t sure when she pulled him off the ledge into the sea. The pair pulled one another close, and Nito angled instinctively, putting his body between the storm and his daughter.

Soon the wind walls had closed to a focal point on their location. Rock and debris whipped across the opening but couldn’t reach them at the back of the grotto. The entrance to the cave was like a window to chaos and havoc. They buried their heads in each other’s shoulders, and Lola prayed, to no god in particular, that the surf didn’t rise and drown them both.

It might have been ten minutes, or it might have been an hour, but the sun broke the tempest, and the wind abated to a gentle breeze. Their window to the world had turned quite pleasant. Lola opened her eyes and saw Nito breathing heavily, staring back at her. Both were covered in blood from the dozens of nicks the storm had inflicted. But nothing fatal.

Lola lowered herself from the ledge at the back of the cave and turned back to NiTo, who remained hesitantly on the shelf.

“You have already been in the sea today, Papa.”

He jumped into the water, barely clearing the rocks. Lola led him to her exit ledge, where they climbed back atop the outcropping and walked back through the forest toward the village. On either side, trees that may have been hundreds of years old were snapped like twigs and cast aside.

“We must tell the keepers what we have done,” NiTo said repentantly.

“We would have died, Papa. The sea saved our lives today.”

NiTo didn’t look convinced but didn’t speak further.

The storm proved powerful in the forest, but its unyielding cruelty was fully displayed in the village. Not one yurt remained upright. Bodies littered the entire town, some impaled by the large tent spikes, others had limbs sheared clean. Lola cursed the stupid tradition and the sentimentality of keeping kiss-shales, likely responsible for the shearing. Cries of agony, both from loss of kin and loss of limb, rang through the town. Bo sat slumped in front of the spires, his head in his hands. NiTo and Lola ran to his side. NiTo gasped when his attention left Bo and turned to the spires. One of the flames had been extinguished.

“We are doomed. Three flames have burned in these spires since the First-Keepers. Lit by the dawn of time.” Bo explained. Most in town tended to the wounded, but soon a hush fell across every person as they laid eyes on Bo and the absent flame. Murmurs and hushed voices soon turned to shouts.

“She did it. She snuffed the flame.” One woman said, pointing to Lola.

“Throw her in the sea to return the flame,” another called.

“Stop it. Please. LolaShar has obeyed the flame. She has not transgressed since the kiss.” Rin, seemingly unscathed, boomed for everyone in town to hear before lowering his voice for NiTo. “Is that not right, Lola?”

Lola wasn’t sure what to say, but Rin went on.

“You are both alive. That is most important,” he said. “Where did you take cover?”

“In the forest.” NiTo offered quickly. “Against a large tree. We are fortunate. Praise the flame and the sun herself.” Neither he nor Lola gave any indication of their briny shelter. If it was an interrogation, it ended there.

“Where did you shelter, Elder RinShar?” Lola asked, bathing her voice in innocence and feigned concern. But it was his turn to be saved from a theological examination.

“IN THE WATER!” A voice boomed.

Ni-To froze, sure he had been outed and took a deep breath.


Continued in Part 2 due to maximum post length.

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