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As he did not seem to come back, she lay down again and soon dozed off one mor time. When she awoke next, she was feeling cold, so cold from the inside that she was shivering violently yet again, and unable to imagine how she could ever have felt warm. It was dark again, with the glowing red fire next to her. But this time she could perceive him, sitting on the other side. His eyes were closed and he sat, cross-legged, motionlessly. As she mustered him more closely, it seemed he was somehow not right himself. The longer she observed him, the tenser he seemed to be. His fists were clenched in his lap, the venes on his arms, on his legs, his throat and forehead were showing. He seemed thinner than before. Her body dragged her attention back to herself with recurring chills. She heard her teeth chatter. She had lost any feeling for the temperature of the surroundings. There seemed to be nothing but cold. And yet, in a strange way, it seemed right.

When she gathered back enough strength to focus her view back on his face she saw him staring back. His eyes were aflame. As their gazes met, the shaking grew to be uncontrollably and on his face, as if in response, signs of great pain showed. And then, simultaneously, both dropped to their knees, crouching toward each other, the fire still in between them.

She could still feel nothing but the cold, even as she came to kneel in the blazing embers.

"This is wrong. What is happening?"

"Are you cold?"

"Yes."

"I am burning. I wonder..."

"Give me your hands."

As she reached out she was able to perceive everything; both of them kneeling in front of each other in the middle of a glowing fireplace, she could smell the burning skin on their legs, see them meeting their hands, clasping each others wrists, she numb from the cold, he growing weaker from the fire that was burning his flesh. Gradually she felt feeling growing back in her fingers. It hurt. But now she was unable to let go.

At last, after a time that felt like endless torment, all pain was gone from her, with exception of the legs. When she was finally able to let go, and move back to examine her legs, she felt stupid and dizzy. She looked across the cave, seeing him still sit inside the fireplace, where the coals were now extinct except for a faint glimmering and sparking here and there.

"Has something like this ever happened to you before?"

"What?"

"I mean it. How did you know we had to join our hands? What is this about? Can you explain to me what you are? I am a simple fire fairy, who got out of his way once and has been duly punished. I know that my fate and the length of my life depend on the question of how long I will be able to stop my own fire from consuming me. But what are YOU and WHY were you able to stop the burning?"

He was looking angry as he spoke and yet she had no idea what to answer him. Her knees were hurting her terribly. Now she was shaking again. But this time from pain, exhaustion and relief that the cold was gone. Something was dripping on her legs. She realized she was crying. He got up and went away in the direction the entry must lie.

She managed to move backwards gradually, back to her bed of moss and wrapped herself back into the coat, crying for the pain, exhaustion and her perplexedness. She could not think properly, nor could she move and think of nothing but the pain in her legs.

 

1.11.11 21:54
 


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