Everyone thinks that oxygen is good for fire.
They’re right, it is. Oxygen feeds fire, grows it like a weed in the sunshine. Feeds it til it’s fat and happy and ready to destroy.
I’m made of the wind, air and oxygen and all the things that feed a fire. So in plain sight, I’m not the one who should be named to fight it.
Except I’m an Airsprite, so this isn’t a gentle breeze on a summer day. That’s not what I’m pulling at here. I’m talking hurricane force winds. It’ll be a snuff-out. The Flames think they’ve got this.
They have no idea.
The forest floor is burning under my feet. Smoke and ash make it hard for me to see Harper running parallel to me. I can hear the breath pushing and pulling from her lungs. Her bittersweet taste lingers on tongue, and I see her hazel eyes flick to me and away as we run. Sometimes I’m so aware of her it hurts, even when I can’t see her.
I’m pretty sure she hates me, but maybe she still loves me.
If we live through this, maybe I’ll get to find out, and taste her again. Sweet. Bitter.
The fire has run inland, too close to the gate. It’s not just a stand of trees, it’s our protection. It’s charmed against human detection, but only if the trees live. It’s dangerously close to being dead.
Dead is really, really bad.
“We’re not gonna make it.” Harper’s words huff past gritted teeth. She’s running full out. Her short legs giving three strides for every one of mine. Her hands shake, just a little. What has she been through already tonight?
“We’ll make it,” I say. “You okay?”
She laughs once, and rushes past me in answer. I’m right on her heels as we enter the wall of trees that hide the gate.
The treetops are on fire, and it’s only getting worse. We skid to a halt in tandem, kicking up leaves. “Plan?” I ask her.
“Push and pull.”
“Dirty,” I say.
“Shut up,” she says, but she smiles anyway.
I know how dangerous this is for her. She is the “pull” in mission extinguish. Metal absorbs heat. A Flamesprite can absorb energy from fire. She cooled herself in the ocean to lower her core temp, and now she means to raise it back up. If she goes too far she’ll melt.
“Be careful,” I say.
“Shut up,” she says.
So I do, but I watch her.
I start to push the wind around, weaving it across the sea and inland. I need it to be fast and heavy, enough to snuff a flame that won’t go out. These are not birthday candles, they are killing flames. The pressure of rushing air makes me ears pop, and adrenalin pushes through my veins. I can almost feel my eyes dilate with the force of wind taking over me. I hold steady, directing it at the flames.
They’re closing in around us, inching toward the base of the gate. Harper has gone silent, folded herself onto the forest floor, hands pressed against the ground. The gravel under my feet gets hot as she displaces fire to the metal in the earth around her. Sweat drips off her forehead even as her hair blows back in my wind. Silent, we work.
At first, the fire fights us. The Flamesprites put their hearts in this one, and it doesn’t want to go out. It shoots up the trunks of the gate trees, and I pull in even more wind, so that I have to fight to stay in place. Harper makes fists in the forest floor, and it starts to glow around her, the metal recognizing its maker. The flames flicker and start to recede, and I smile into the wind. I quell the smaller blazes around the base of the gate, and I’m rewarded with the smoke of dying fire.
“Harp, we’ve got this,” I say to her.
She screams, and I whirl to the sound.
Leena’s laugh is loud over the cacophony of wind and the cracking of flames.
The air goes still around us.
… to be continued.
For more amazing art by Catherine Langwagen, please visit her Deviant Art page (cassiopeiaart.deviantart.com). Stay tuned for Rebecca’s response to our July series on Wednesday. Follow us on Twitter to get updates and news.
Artwork © Copyright, Catherine Langwagen 2011. All rights reserved. Used with permission.