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Chapter 1

Land of Ice: Heat and Fire - REVIEW THIS STORY

Written by CrystalWren
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

Abandoned in a land of snow and ice, a sleeping man dreamed of fire.

He dreamed of fire, raging, devouring, destroying. Fire, smoking and hellish and warm. Wrapping itself around his frozen body and chasing away the pain and numbness of frostbite and bloodless flesh. Fire, chasing away the pain and numbness of knowing that at last he had destroyed whatever chance of happiness he had, and his life had been burned to ash. And that ash, still warm and faintly smoking, filled with glowing embers that were slowly, slowly, being put out by grinding and relentless cold.

The man shuddered faintly, moving slightly in his sleep, flinching when his limbs left the faint warmth left by his body on the stone, touching the freezing layer of frost scant centimetres from where he curled in a futile ball against the cold night.

It hurt.

Cramps had made a permanent home in his limbs, filling them with an aching pain, burning up his muscles in a fire-bright flare of agony whenever he moved the wrong way. Whenever he moved at all, really. Fire, yes, of a sort, but not the type to warm him. He was dreaming of fire but he was still so cold. He coughed, more pain, caused by the constant nagging weight of the pneumonia that had settled in his lungs. When it had first started he had welcomed it, hoping that the blaze of the inevitable fever would warm him at last, or barring that, it would finally kill him and put him out of his misery. To his nightmare-shrouded mind, it seemed like the phlegm and blood he was coughing up and choking on was smoke. More fire. More fire that burned but did not warm.

He shuddered again.

He was dreaming. Of fire. He stood on a hillside in the night, stones digging into his bare feet, the pins-and-needles pain reminding him of the pain of frostbite, knife-sharp blades of tough native grasses slicing bloodless cuts into his ankles and toes. Before him stood a bank of trees and scrub, bush as the Australians called it, hellishly backlighted by a massive wall of flames two stories high, towering over the doomed trees. All around him he saw the fleeting shadows of the equally doomed wildlife as it fled the burning death that chased them. Strange hopping shapes, wallabies, kangaroos, little pouched mice and lumbering wombats. He could even see the desperate, graceless gait of a huge lizard, a goanna, clumsy but fast. All around him was an unrelenting scream, a rushing, crackling, overwhelming noise that was the sound of the fire itself. The smoke caught in his throat and chest and he doubled over and coughed, the taste of blood spreading across his tongue. It hurt. Oh, God, it hurt.

Did he really deserve to die this way?

He looked up then, and found himself looking at a picture of hell. The fire had jumped while he had been fighting for breath, and it stood scant metres away from him, roaring its anger like a living thing. Twisting shapes seemed to flicking in and out of the flame, and involuntary he reached out to touch them. Screamed as more pain raced up his hand and arm and settled in the very bone itself. He stumbled backwards, found himself falling down and down into a pit of yet more fire. As he fell an odd thought flickered across his brain: why is it so cold? He woke up, body twisted and cramped in a knot, arm outstretched and lying on the frost that covered the stones he slept on. He looked around him.

Eyes of fire looked upon a land of ice.


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