Genesis Scrolls Round 3: REVISED {The Stranger & The Three Fires}

Name: Banners
Eth Address: 0xE445d3Ef20aB80FB091e1A64279604C399b18c64

“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 mind when I sell them, Papa.” She yelled back at him, grinning, even though he couldn’t see her.

She plucked a final pearl from a mollusc and dove from her secluded cave-ledge into the water. Ni-To watched as his raven-haired daughter swam from the grotto and into his view. With jaw clenched and arms crossed, his silent reprimand was ineffective on his defiant daughter.

“You are almost twelve long suns,” he scolded while she climbed up to his perch.

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

Her wide-eyed innocent gaze seemed ineffective on her father, and they trudged back through the woods toward the village.

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

After trekking just long enough for Lola’s clothes to dry, the forest opened upon a collection of yurts where the smell of smoke and fire hung in the air. Gentle waves lapped at a sandy beach visible to the west of town, but no docks or boats were there.

At the centre of the settlement, three tall stone spires spewed a slim but ferocious blaze. Their broad base had an opening where elders fed logs dipped in various oils dictated by the wood and the weather. The Flame-keepers worked these fires sleeveless; the disfigured skin of their arms was white from shoulder to hand, contrasting their sun-kist olive skin. The disfigurations weren’t random scars but intricate designs painted in heat and pain.

The town bustled with activity around the spires. Some talked and cooked while others sat on large stones. At one end of the village, a collection of painted horses were tied and tended to by smiling children.

“Ni-ToShar!” Said a threatening voice from behind. Lola watched her father’s eyes close in frustration.

She grabbed her father’s hand and squeezed it.

“It’s okay, Papa.” She whispered.

The voice belonged to RinShar, one of the Flame-keepers who stood with his hand outstretched and a small rose-coloured pearl pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

Lola stared daggers at MiMoShar. The boy was two suns older than Lola but cowered behind the robes of his grandfather, the Flame-keeper.

“Weasel.” Lola mouthed in the direction of MiMo before turning back to her father. She let go of his hand and walked to the spires. Sharp eyes went to RinShar first, the Flame-keeper who held the pearl and then at MiMo. She plopped stoically on a stone and adjusted her smock, exposing her back. A series of scars in various stages of healing covered her skin from nape to small.

“Bring me the drake tail,” Rinshar called with a smirk to a junior keeper. 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 handle and let the eight leather lashes fall. He was tall, but the tails of it still brushed the ground. The lashes whistled sharply as he swung the implement in the open air before his eyes turned to Lola’s exposed back. The onlookers winced as Rin brought the drake-tail back.

Lola’s jaw clenched when the first strike 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 a held breath, and Ni-To opened his eyes.

Rin let the silence loom, which gave Lola a chance to blink away her tears.

“The sea is darkness, LolaShar.”

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

“That is Elder RinShar,” he interrupted.

“Elder, RinShar.” She conceded in rancour.

He frowned and then addressed those who had gathered to witness her punishment.

“At the dawn of time, the Sun lit our spires. We are the house of Three Fires, and Ember Law is our creed. To enter the sea is to break Ember Law. The sea is cold, and fire is warmth. The sea is darkness, and fire is light. We must not offend her. 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 readjusted her shirt and walked straight past the gathered crowd. She walked remarkably upright, out of pride and knowing that removing a blood-wet shirt was as painful as the lashings.

“That child has a spirit like none other, Ni-To.”

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

“She will bring terrible things upon us.”

Ni-To bit his tongue. Lola, who had stopped and looked back, could see the veins at her father’s temple beating.

“If she transgresses after the kiss, we will have no choice but to banish her,” RinShar said matter-of-factly. He gave the drake tail a final twirl before returning it to the attendant keeper.

Ni-To frowned and cast a worried eye toward BoShar.

{} {} {} {} {}

“By Ember Law, a child on their twelfth Long Sun shall receive the kiss of the coals.” BoShar, head of the three Flame-keepers, bellowed to the entire town who had convened around the spires. “Step forward and present your shale, LolaShar.”

A wry smile crept across her face as she presented a rock she’d pulled from the seafloor. Bo took her sea-shale and struck it with a mallet forming a sharp edge before placing it into the red coals at the pit’s edge.

“LolaShar, born of Ni-ToShar and Li-Ti-Shar, returned to Ash,” Bo began to proclaim. Father and daughter locked mournful eyes. “Today, you will receive the kiss of the coals. Do you accept the fire?”

“Yes.” Came her unconvincing reply.

Bo signalled for quiet until the only sounds were the soft crackling of flames and the breeze whistling through yurts. Lola shuffled in her spot until Bo pulled on thick leather gloves and retrieved Lola’s stone from the coals. He held it for the town to see, and Lola presented her sleeveless arm to the head flame-keeper. First, Bo pressed the shale flat against her skin and scraped downward, smearing it black with charcoal. Then he turned the stone edge-wise and carved three flame symbols into her upper arm. A clenched jaw sufficed for the drake-tail, but she let a groan slip during the kiss.

When he had finished, Bo picked up a handful of sand and poured it over her arm. Charcoal and blood were swept 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.

At the rite’s conclusion, Bo leaned into Lola.

“Lola. You must not enter 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 promise.”

They nodded in mutual respect before she rose, careful not to coddle her arm.

{} {} {} {} {}

Lola lay in her bed, tracing the nearly healed scars on her arm. Morning had come, and her father had left for the day. Ni-To was an oilist who spent his mornings turning local ingredients into the fuels that fed the fires. A soft rain pattered on their hide tent and lulled Lola back into slumber.

A deafening thunder inside the tent ripped Lola from her second sleep. The straps that held the leather door of the tent were barely hanging on, and the roof billowed up and slammed down with frightening percussion. Lola stumbled out and looked up to the swirling darkness surrounding the town. Things of all sizes were whisked up into a storm bigger than any she’d seen. LolaShar frantically searched for Ni-To amid the chaos.


“LOLASHAR!” 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 stores, even though winters were mild. Still, Ni-To wasn’t the only one considering refuge in the underground pantry.

A man struggled to enter the cellars, but Rin barred his passage before kicking him in the gut. Doubled over, a stray yurt pole burst through his head, in one ear and out the other. With wide eyes still locked on Rin, his body slumped into death. Rin looked around before covering his own head and retreating underground. The horizontal hatch slammed behind him.

Ni-To dove and tackled Lola just as a yurt filled with wind boomed past. It snared a woman further down, and together they were hurled up into the sky. The woman’s shirt tore free, and she fell a dozen spire-lengths back to the ground.

“COME. THIS WAY!” Lola shouted directly into her father’s face. She grabbed his arm, pulling him to his feet and led him through the forest to the rocky ledges of her pearling grounds.

Lola leaned in and yelled over the roaring storm.


Ni-To stared at his brave daughter, but decades of Ember Law 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. Lola surfaced alone. She looked around in the rumbling black sea for her father while struggling for air between waves.

“PAPA!” She repeatedly screamed with no answer.

A large swell lifted Lola, and she spotted NiTo between her and the cave. They locked eyes, and he motioned for her to follow him. They swam into the shelter and climbed a ledge out of the water and the storm. The two sat speechless, trying to catch their breath.

“I am glad Mama taught you to swim too,” Lola eventually said. “I wasn’t sure when we jumped.” They held one another close, and Ni-To angled his body between his daughter and the storm.

Rock and debris whipped across the cave’s opening, making a window to the chaos and havoc outside. Lola prayed, to no god in particular, that the water didn’t rise and drown them both.

{} {} {} {} {}

The sun broke the tempest sometime later, and the wind abated to a gentle breeze. Lola pulled away from her father’s chest and found their window of the world had turned quite pleasant. Both had suffered dozens of cuts and scrapes from the storm but were alive.

Lola lowered herself from the ledge, but Ni-To remained hesitantly in place.

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

He jumped timidly into the water, barely clearing the rocks and swam for shore. They climbed out of the sea and began the trek to the village. In the forest, ancient trees were snapped like twigs and cast aside.

“We must tell the keepers,” Ni-To said repentantly.

“The sea saved us today.”

Ni-To wasn’t convinced but didn’t appeal.

If the storm seemed mighty in the forest, it was indiscriminately cruel in the village. Cries of agony, both from loss of kin and loss of limb, rang through the town. Lola cursed the sentimentality of keeping the sharp kiss-shales. Up ahead, in front of the pit, Bo sat slumped with his head in his hands. Ni-To and Lola ran to his side but gasped when they saw the spires.

One of the flames had been extinguished.

“We are doomed. Three flames have burned since the First-Keepers. Lit by the dawn of time.” Bo lamented. A hush fell across every person as they laid eyes on the absent flame. Murmurs and whispers turned to shouts.

"SHE DID IT! One woman said, pointing to Lola.

SHE SNUFFED THE FLAME!" another called.

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

Lola froze, and Rin continued.

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

“IN THE WATER!” A voice boomed from behind.

Ni-To took a deep breath.

Another voice exclaimed from the crowd, “A PERSON. AT THE BEACH!”

Ni-To exhaled, and Lola turned toward the shore.

A body was face down and half in the water, its legs disappearing under each wave. Lola broke from her father’s side and bolted to the beach. She hooked his arms and pulled him back from the sea, careful not to enter herself, then rolled him onto his back and put her ear to his mouth. He wasn’t breathing. Lola locked her mouth on his and exhaled deeply, stopping only to listen for breath. On her fourth series, he coughed a chestful of seawater into her face. She pushed him over on his side and let him empty the rest of his lungs on the sand. The ragged townspeople looked on as Lola fell back and lay on the sand, her chest heaving in near harmony with the waves.

Bo was the first to speak.

“Take him to the fire.”

Someone threw a bed roll near the spires, and they dumped the large pale body onto it. The man had a head of blonde hair and a scraggly beard and was at least a head taller than anyone in town. He wore only a pair of linen breeches, and his bare, muscular torso was adorned with strange tattoos and blade scars.

The half-naked and unconscious man from the sea lay in front of the three spires and two flames, creating an unpropitious tableau.

{} {} {} {} {}

“He was asleep for three days, BoShar. And has no idea who he is. What are we to do with him?” Rin asked.

“I do not know. He is a Stranger, but the storm put him here. There must be a reason.”

“A flame has gone out, Bo, and will not light. Three flames have burned since the first dawn. This man from the sea is a bad omen.”

“He is here now. Only someone who transgresses after receiving the kiss of the coals may be cast out. Until such time, he is in our care.”

Rin grumbled under his breath but knew that Bo, and Ember Law, were right. He huffed and joined a group of people huddled in conversation, occasionally looking in the Stranger’s direction.

The house of Three Flames had kept its word. They fed the Stranger and provided bedding near the flame. They would have provided accommodations, but there were no yurts. It would be years before they had hunted the stags required for their walls and roofs, but the Stranger had fashioned a crude palm shelter not far from the spires.

Lola had taken up the habit of talking to the Stranger at night after full days of repairs around town. She’d bring him helpings of boar-jerky and fruit from the forest.

“What do you remember?” She asked.

“Just falling. And salt water.”

“And you do not know your name?” The Stranger shook his head in response to her question.

“What do your tattoos mean?”

“I haven’t the foggiest.”

She raised a confused eyebrow at the unfamiliar term.

“It means I don’t know,” he added with a smile.

“Everything about you is strange.”

“Well, if the shoe fits!” His reply was met with another eyebrow.

She stood and started to walk away, then turned and hurled a stone in his direction. The Stranger raised his hand and caught it while his other arm reached across his body at his waist. She smiled proudly.

“I think you had a sword, Stranger.”

“What if I hadn’t reacted?”

“Then you would have a broken nose, and we would still not know anything.” Lola smiled mischievously. “Let us see what else you can do.”

“Get up.” Someone had approached the pair.

“Go away, FloShar,” Lola said to the man.

“No. My corn has wilted. We have grown corn since the first keepers. It has never wilted.” He pushed the Stranger hard in the chest. “You put the flame out. It is your fault, you–” He started to yell, but it was cut short by the strong hand of the Stranger clamping hard on his neck. A cold, distant look came over the Stranger’s eyes as he lifted, the villager’s feet dangling just above the ground.

“Stop it!” Lola demanded.

The Stranger obeyed and released his grip. The villager crumpled to the ground gasping before stealing away.

“It is not your fault,” Lola explained as his warm eyes returned.

Over the next six months, Lola led the Stranger through dozens of experiments trying to coax any details from his subconscious. The ire he drew from the townspeople only fed Lola’s rebellion and determination.

Her first experiment was sparring. Though not a worthy adversary, Lola was disarmed by the Stranger so quickly that even he had to agree with her sword thesis. He removed the wooden stick from her neck, and they both laughed.

“Your scars say you had better opponents than me,” Lola observed as the Stranger rubbed a hand over his shirt in absent thought.

“We have something in common.” She said as she turned her back to him, but their moment of shared injury was cut short when a group of villagers approached them, led by Rin.

“Stranger, I do not like your presence here.”

“I’m well aware of that, Rin.”

“The third flame is still out!” A brave-ish villager in the back yelled.

“He did not do anything!” Lola responded.

The villager approached Lola and drove a stiff finger into her collarbone. “You did this too.”

The villager’s face swung to the side, propelled by Ni-To’s fist, but he didn’t fall. He spat a mouthful of blood to the side and readied to fight. Ni-To, twice the man’s age, raised his hands in response. The villagers backed off when the Stranger stepped to Ni-To’s side.

“I didn’t extinguish the flame. I’m grateful to this house.” He held out his bare arm for the villagers to see. “I’ve taken it as my own, in case any of you had forgotten.”

The Stranger had strived to engrain himself in their customs and rituals. He started learning about Ember Law, but the tall, pale man stood out in every way possible.

“I do believe that, Stranger.” Rin nodded to the not-yet-healed fire symbols on the Stranger’s arm. “You have proven yourself to our house, but I fear you may have to leave all the same. Our crops are failing. Our hunts are not returning enough meat or hide. We have resorted to striking our own.” Rin shot a glance at Ni-To.

“You can leave if you choose to, Stranger,” Bo spoke authoritatively as the group turned to see. “but we cannot force him out. He has taken the flame into his soul. He is one of us.” Bo said to the mob.

"FloShar, has he not taught your children how to set game traps?

“Did he not help the injured?” Bo shot at another villager, who hung his head in shame.

“He offends the sun and the flame. We should never have allowed him to live with us. HE IS FROM THE SEA!” Rin shouted back at Bo. “THE LASHES ON HIS BACK ARE PROOF OF HIS INSOLENCE.”

Before he took the kiss from the coals, she had run a swimming experiment. He was as good at swimming as he was at swordsmanship. Maybe better. Rin had enjoyed administering the drake tail until the Stranger stood laughing and asked Lola if a mosquito had bitten him.

“ENOUGH!” Bo yelled with a timbre no one in town had heard before. Rin let the matter be, and the angry villagers dispersed. The Stranger’s eyes flitted like he was trying to remember something.

“I can not keep this up, Stranger,” Bo said to him and Lola before shaking his head. He frowned at the unlit flame and left their company.

In time, the town had caught and tamed a few wild horses to replenish their harras. The Stranger turned out to be an experienced rider as well. Whatever he’d been before, he was certainly skilled in many things.

The calls for his expulsion continued to mount, but Lola was determined to figure the man out before it came to that. One day she sat with the Stranger doing word associations.











Her eyes widened in epiphany. “Do you remember having a bag?”

He shrugged and shook his head at the suggestion.

That night, she waited until her father was asleep, then slinked through town toward the beach. With the tide low, the moon reflected off the calm shallow water. She squinted into the dark water, looking for something, anything. Then a sparkle, faint but unnatural. It wasn’t far in front of her and was in knee-high water. She rubbed at the kiss on her upper arm but then rolled up her smock and walked into the sea.

She found the source of the sparkle, but it was lodged under a rock. Bent at the waist and careful not to get her garments wet, she plunged an arm in to retrieve the object. It was a soft and lumpy thing her hand met first, but it wouldn’t budge. She reached in again, two arms this time, and leaned back, pulling her full but unsubstantial weight against the object. Nothing. The water had risen to her just above her knee.

She put a hand under the bag but recoiled when something stung her.

“Ahhh.” She whisper-yelled at herself as a clean-cut across her palm leaked blood and mixed with salt water.

She probed her hands carefully. The thing was pinned to the sea floor under a small boulder. Standing, she put her hands on her hips and looked around. The struggle had gone on long enough for her to know it was something. Something necessary.

Her eyes narrowed in determination. The moonlit water was at her mid-thigh, but she dropped to her knees and drove her shoulder against the obstruction. It was the first time she’d been in the water since taking her vows. With her feet anchored in the sand and her head craned to the side, she drove her full might against the boulder. Slowly the rock obstruction rolled off her target. It was a bag of sorts, with a brilliant short sword strapped to the outside, sharp as if freshly honed. She thought about opening it, even took the latch into her hands, but thought better of it. It wasn’t hers.

She ran and darted into a thicket of trees to dry, shaking like a dog to accelerate the process. Though she hadn’t looked in the bag, she had tipped it every way to drain whatever water might be caught inside. When she and the bag were dry, she headed toward town. Moon fall had given way to sun-rise, and the village was just starting to come to life.

Grinning through town, Lola approached Bo, Rin and the newest Flame-keeper, MunShar, who were doing their Affairs of First Light and tending to the two flames. Mun’s predecessor had been one of the many casualties of the storm; The man’s heart had stopped when he saw the extinguished flame.

The bag hit the ground at their feet, and the sword clanked as it settled.

“That… That’s mine.” The Stranger said with his brows furrowed. “I’ve no idea why…but it’s mine.”

Rin was the first to speak.

“Let us examine the contents first, shall we.”

“The Stranger is a swordsman,” she said, pointing to the blade. “Let him tell us what is inside before we look.”

Murmurs fluttered through the townspeople, but no one raised an argument in response to the girl’s plan.

“I…I can’t remember.” He said.

“Necklace. Ring. Boots.” She prodded.

“Yes…Boots!” He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “…made from a creature’s hide! Ring…Ring…” He closed his eyes again.

“Titanium! Dull in shine, but stronger than anything you’ve seen. And the necklace…” he said, scratching his head. “It can change my voice!”

Bo knelt, opened the bag, and emptied its contents before the town and its heir apparent. With one final shake, two small crabs hit the ground. Lola swallowed hard but didn’t say anything.

“She has entered the sea! She must be exiled!” Someone from the gathering crowd called. Lola flushed.

“Yes. I did. The Stranger was missing something. I am trying to help.”

“By entering the sea?” Rin asked incredulously. “You must be exiled, LolaShar. It is Ember Law.”

Calls for exile and even her death came from the crowd. The crabs scuttled away, but the ring and boots were just as the Stranger described. The Flame-keepers glanced at Ni-To, who looked to LolaShar, who bit her lip. The Stranger narrowed his eyes and grabbed the necklace. He pulled it on and faced the tinder box that had become the crowd.

“ENOUGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” He screamed at everyone. At first, their hair blew back. Then they had to lean into the shout to maintain their footing. Some villagers stumbled and flew back under the force of the scream. The Stranger brought his voice to heel and looked at the crowd. A few had trickles of blood coming from their noses and ears.

“These are my things.”

The Stranger proceeded to put them on, not waiting for permission from the elders, and no member of the town intervened. Even the flamekeepers watched in subservience. Rin had cowered like a wolf who’d just lost the pack.

As he went, each piece fit with impressive precision. The boots went on like gloves, and the leather gloves went on just like the boots.

At last, he picked up the sword and slid it into the sheath hanging from his belt. The hilt hit the guard, and a low rumble came from the spire pit. The townspeople were silent. They glared at the empty but crescendoing spire and then back at the newly-minted warrior before them. Some villagers backed up in response to the hollow roar. Lola stepped closer and moved around, trying to locate the origin of the sound. But then it stopped.

Without warning, a flame burst into life in the bulbous bottom of the spire and exploded upward through the shaft. The fire peaked with a large mushroom-like plume well above the spire before setting back to its familiar, columnar shape.

Like the third flame, the villagers erupted into cheers and cries of joy.

“The sun smiles on us once again!”

“Fire is Light. Fire is Warmth!”

Complete jubilation came from the crowd who had surrounded Lola and the Stranger and were fawning over them. Some burst into tears, and a few sobbed into another’s chest. Rough shoulder shakes brought a relieved smile to Ni-To’s face. The mood of the village had changed so much that one might think they’d be pinned under the sea, gasping for air themselves. Before the flame pulled them back to life.

The Stranger had washed up broken and nearly as naked as a firstday baby, but now that he’d dressed in his things, he’d lit the flame. He grabbed a torch, stuck it in the third spire and held it up victoriously to a raucous celebration from the village. Ni-To ran to Lola and scooped her up in his arms.

“How?” Bo asked the Stranger.

The Stranger lowered his torch and began to pace back and forth. Muttering. Thinking. Trying to remember.

“The hell if I know.” He mumbled, not loud enough for anyone to hear. Gasps came from the crowd as his whisper boomed from the spires.

“He is of the flame!” Lola decried. She pushed him from behind and told him to run to the far side of town. He ran without question, smoke from his torch marking his trail until he stopped. Those with good eyes could see his mouth moving but couldn’t hear anything.

“RAISE THE TORCH!” Lola yelled back, and he brought the fire up from his side.

“Can you hear me?”

The townspeople gasped as whispers thundered from the spires.

Bo looked at Rin and Mun, who offered only confused faces, no answers. The leader nodded to the man before he ran back to rejoin the townspeople.

“How did you do that?”

“That flame…I think it’s like me and my things. We’re connected.”

A cough came from one of the keepers.

“There is still another matter to discuss,” Rin started. “LolaShar, you have entered the sea a coal-kissed. You must be exiled from our home.”

“You can not do that. She lit the third flame!” Ni-To responded, but Bo interjected with a tortured look on his face. The crowd, elated just moments ago, had gone quiet. Mimo tugged at his grandfather’s robe, the only other villager to come to her defence, as timid as it was.

“I am sorry, Ni-To. It is Ember Law. She must go. Before the next missing moon, she will have to leave.” Rin said as Bo looked on helplessly.

“What are we, if not observant of Ember Law….” Bo said in philosophical defeat.

“Then I will leave too,” Ni-To replied, anger in his voice.

“This girl saved your flame,” the Stranger roared in. “She’s saved your house, and you would cast her out. The realms will know her name.” He had amplified his voice again, but only for effect this time. “I will accompany you both.” He added, looking at Ni-To.

“I owe you my life, LolaShar, saviour of the Three Fires,” he said in conclusion.

“Before the next missing moon then….” Bo said in solemn summary.

While they awaited the missing moon, the Stranger and Lola continued their work of discovery. Still, his voice captured most of Lola’s attention.

“You made your voice painfully loud and then whispered in the flames.” She mused aloud to the Stranger. She grabbed half a dozen torches, lit them in the three flames and set them at varying distances.


In no time at all, he was at the first. A grown man, decked in plate and sword, giggling like a child with fascination and wonder.

“Can you hear me?” He whispered. She nodded. He ran to another.

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes. Can you hear me?” She whispered back in the direction of the spire.

“I can!” He yelled, and Lola covered her ears.

“Easy!” She yelled into the spire and watched as the distant figure covered his ears.

“Stay there.” She whispered and then ran to one of the torches she set. “Can you hear me?”

“Yes…by the gods. Torch to torch. Lola, you are something.”

The moon waned quickly. The townspeople were kind, for the most part, and provided provisions and tools for their trip. Rin kept his distance and his tongue during this period of impending exile. Lola spent her remaining days in the water, knowing full well that the banished were no longer bound by Ember Law. She found nearly as much joy in strolling sopping wet past Rin as she did collecting pearls.

The morning the group was to leave, Mimo sheepishly handed Lola a bolt of green cloth, the same shade as the Three Fires Banner. She unfurled it and saw it ended in a single point but had only two of their town’s three flame symbols.

“You will add your own symbol, Lola. I am sorry for telling on you.” Mimo said.

“Do no worry, Mimo. Here.” She handed him a satchel of her pink pearls.

“Elder BoShar. We will speak into the flames as we go and report our progress. We will spread the fire across the Realms.” Lola said, “I do not know how far we will be able to speak, but we will find out.”

Ni-To looked upon his daughter, wondering where the years had gone.

“Fire is warmth. Fire is Light.” Bo replied, and Lola returned a warm smile.

“Do not worry for me, Elder BoShar,” She said.

“Of all the things I worry about, You, LolaShar, are not one of them. Go. Spread the flame.”

The night of the whole moon came, and Lola, Ni-To, and the Stranger were packed and ready to embark. Several others stepped forward to join them, and ten in all headed for the jungle forest away from town.

They had walked for some time before Lola finally broke the silence.

“What shall we call you? We cannot call you Stranger for the rest of our lives.”

“I don’t know…why don’t you give me a name?” he replied. She scratched her chin, and then the devious grin that had become commonplace crept across her lips.

“Well, had I not saved you from the sea, you would have become fish food. Yes?”

“That’s true.” He chuckled.

“Then we shall call you Worm.”

I hereby waive all copyright and related or neighbouring rights together with all associated claims and causes of action with respect to this work to the extent possible under the law.

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