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It was cold, the flat stone he sat upon. With his legs crossed, hands rested on his knees. His breath was slow, full, precise. His eyes were closed. The long silken strands of hair covering his head thrashed freely in the malevolent gales. It had distracted him. Still he imagined a blistering pyre set before him, warming him, dispelling the freezing dreadfulness in which he suffered—chose to suffer. He prayed that the numbness at the tips of his bare fingers and toes was just a momentary conundrum and not a sign of permanent damage. As his thoughts drifted from the now, out and away from himself to leave behind a hollow mind, his will faltered. It wasn’t fire. There was no fire, only the dry wind wetting the orbs behind his shut eyelids, only the frost touch from the flakes of snow falling from above, only the shivering spasms coursing through his body.
His eyes opened. He sat upon the peak of an icy mountain. Strata of ice like glass below his feet, surrounded by the powdery dunes of snow. The white sky blanketed by darkening clouds towards the Eastern horizon, he looked down and saw pillars of grey smoke rise towards the altitude of the peak.
He looked down at the source of the smoke, hoped that maybe reflecting on all that led up to this moment would offer clarity. The source of the smoke were the chimneys from the houses of a village where he lived, down far below between the mountains, in an ever-quiet green valley. It was also where his neighbours lived, his wife, children, the hunters and the maidens, but no others like him. No others sharing his goal of breathing fire, invoking flames from the palms of their hands, nor taming its power. No one else even knew of such a thing, but he did. A traveller once passing through the village told him, showed him that magnificent power, gave him instructions on how to master it. It was all in facing adversity that the natural gate locking unfathomable power could be forced open. Adversity and a bit of luck, as well as the right knowledge. That traveller, she had vanished before he could learn more. He had so many questions, so many doubts, but one thing he knew for certain: what he saw her do with open flame was real, the fire she conjured consuming her yet never once hurting her, it was real. That traveller told him the truth. Now he only had to seize it.
But this time, like all the times before, he failed to ignite his soul.
Defeated, he descended down into the valley. Having walked down the burnished stone steps so familiar to his bare feet, he returned to the village with nothing to show for his efforts…
The flat stone of the mountain peak was still cold when he sat upon it. The air bit any exposed skin and even under his robes he shivered with every push and shove of the wind. His long hair had been tied behind his head. The furious gust blew its loose strands in a total chaos. It had distracted him before, but not now. Not anymore.
He breathed in. Specks of frost hit his face. He breathed out. The shivers across his body ceased. In spite of the chill, he could feel a warmth swelling deep within him. The heat burned its way from a point inside his heart, the blood it pumped and that coursed in his veins invigorated the numb joints and appendices of his hands and feet. He rose up as if a snake striking at its prey from hiding. The hatred of the blizzard would have swept him away had it not been for his stance. Feet wide apart, arms locked in place, fists up as if he were to fight for his life.
Where there were frozen pillars of ice, there was melting water. It was fire. Now, there was fire. It spewed from his fists like a stream out of a mountainside. Opening his mouth, he breathed out. The flame, hot and red shot up into the sky in spite of his cries.
When the blizzard cleared, a pillar of black smoke could be seen rising towards the heavens by the peak, from the valley below.