Shocked by the silence, I blinked my non-existent eyes a few times. No longer did I stand in a burning town and no longer did I burn. I looked at my hands; they were whole yet translucent. I felt my torso and my heart beat. I felt my head and my hair remained. Astonished, I looked about. This in-between place had no landmarks, no sky, no ground – yet I stood upon something. I existed in a array of color – mostly orange and yellow, but other colors streaked through, like clouds at sunset – and like sunset, the color shifted from moment to moment.
The elemental bobbed up to me, much smaller – about the size of loaf of bread. It flew around my body, brushing my arms. It’s purring sound made me smile and I held out my hand. It perched in my palm and proceeded to make strange motions. One longer flame piece came out of its center and caressed its outer flames, as if it were grooming like a cat. Also catlike, it curled up on my palm and appeared to sleep.
I held my hand close to my face, feeling no heat or smelling smoke, and the purring grew louder. I stroked it experimentally, with my translucent hand. Its snapping fur? fur, I guessed, clung to my fingers but did not hurt. I moved to put it down, but it moved up to my shoulder and it sat there, apparently content.
“One is seldom without friends, Gestin,” my mother’s voice came to me, except she didn’t call me Gestin. I remembered she told me that when we moved to Oakvale and I had been upset about leaving my friends. A vision of a pale, thin woman with wispy spiderweb colored hair and gray-blue eyes became confused with the person I knew to be my mother – a short, stout woman with brown curly hair; round, rosy cheeks; and laughing dark eyes – Kotia and Landt – her husband. Funny, I never thought of him as my father – although he must have been.
The vibration of the elemental’s purr resonated in my brain and I felt at once relaxed yet very energetic. I had a friend and wasn’t alone in this in-between place.
I looked around at the strange beauty and wondered where and how I could exist in such a place. Did Southallow still burn? Had I passed on to the elements?
That question seemed moot; obviously I had. But now what? No god or goddess greeted me and conveyed me to my forefathers.
One tendril of fire stretched out and wrapped around my neck, not in a choke hold but in a kind of hug.
How had this creature been trapped in Tiria’s lamp?
Her name brought up the face of the wispy-haired woman again. She stood before me, her eyes blazing, her fingers coming toward my face.
“Forgive me,” she said, “This is for your own safety.” Her fingers touched my forehead and a flash of lightning blinded me. I was…who in the dark cold underworld was I?
I started to pace in the in between and my elemental friend clung to my neck.
Tiria had done that to me. Taken my name and memory. Made me someone else. I knew Gestin, but he no longer seemed to be me. For my safety – but why?
Frustration made me want to roar at the sky – but the sky seemed all around me.
It seemed unfair to go to the elements and not have any answers.
The elemental’s hold turned tight and I looked down at it. It batted my nose with a tendril and then flared up and engulfed me.
I stood next to the well in Southallow, smoldering but alive. The fire was out, leaving blackened houses and piles of ash everywhere. I could hear people milling about up the hill, coming toward me. The fire elemental, now curled again on my shoulder, burped.
“Ate too much did you?” I asked it. I had to find somewhere to store it, or I’d have fires following me all the way to Crown City. For I was going to Crown City. Oakvale had nothing for me, but Crown City had my name.