Fiction Friday: The Firestorm Chronicle
This week we look at Sarah Dyer’s Dedication, from the Firestorm Chronicle Anthology for Promethean: The Created.
Eleven days into her solitude, Avalon heard footsteps crunching through some of the crisp snow nearby. She froze. She wasn’t anywhere near the hiking path. She tried to dampen her Fire, just in case it was a monster or another of her kind, but then she heard a muffled, “Hello? Is there anyone out here?”
The voice sounded exhausted. Avalon knew that most humans couldn’t survive the harsh temperatures up here without proper equipment. It was late afternoon. No way this person could get back to the train station before dark — if anyone was left there anyway. She was out and tromping towards the voice within moments, tugging up her hood and making sure her coat was fully zipped and fastened. Avalon had to clear her throat a bit, as it had been days since she’d spoken. “Hey, are you okay?”
The woman nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound, whirling around to face her. “Jesus!” The woman stumbled back, and caught herself. “Oh, thank goodness! I thought I was going to be stuck here all night!” She stepped closer to Avalon, looking incredibly relieved. “Do you have a snowmobile or something to get back?”
“No, I’m sorry…I’m actually setting up a camp up here, not too far away. It’s a bit late — I don’t think you’ll make it back to the train station in time to catch a ride back. Come on with me.” She noted how easily she was falling into conversation when the entire purpose of this trip was to avoid human contact. The woman, however, seemed surprised and skeptical.
“Camping? Seriously? Are you nuts?” The woman shook her head. “I shouldn’t complain — you’re saving my ass. Thank you.” She stuck out a gloved hand and smiled. “I’m Betsy. What’s your name?”
“My friends call me Avalon.”
“Nice to meet you, Avalon. Where’s your campsite?” Betsy asked.
“This way. I was just getting ready to start a fire when I heard you.” It wasn’t true, of course. Avalon didn’t need the warmth. She tried to think about how to tell the woman the truth without telling her all the truth, but stuck with the lie instead. It made her feel human, but not in a way she liked.
Betsy didn’t distract her from those thoughts as they worked their way back to Avalon’s little campsite. Luckily it really did look like she’d just found it and cleared it out; no coals or ash to show evidence of a fire, no tent or gear. Avalon hadn’t brought any of that, as she didn’t really need it — but now she was sorely wishing for a shelter of some sort.
“I like to rough it, so I packed light. I think this will be okay for the night, though.” Betsy seemed unsure of the prospect, but moved to the back of the indent in the rock to put down her backpack while Avalon started the fire. She’d collected a modest pile of branches and pinecones to craft into frames for some of her art, but she lit them up without hesitation.
“So Betsy, what brings you out here? You’re not as crazy as me.” Avalon smiled a little over her shoulder, glancing briefly at Betsy — and seeing Ysolte instead. She blinked rapidly and shook her head, brushing her hands off and standing up in an attempt to cover. When she looked back up, it was Betsy again — not her creator.
“I came up here with my publisher and his wife, doing some research for my next book. I decided to go wandering to get a feel for the mountain, and then I couldn’t find my way back.” She rubbed her hands together and scooted closer to the growing flames. “They may not even look for me till tomorrow. I have a habit of running off.”
“Oh? Well, they have nothing to worry about. We’ll get you back to the train tomorrow morning, safe and sound. And then you’ll have a story about how you braved the night out here!” Avalon rustled around in her pack and pulled out a couple of granola bars. “Here, eat these. I’m going to gather some more wood for the fire. Will you be okay for a little while?”
Betsy was looking tired, but quite a bit less frozen around the edges. “I’ll be okay. I won’t let the fire go out, either.”
“Good. Eat, rest, and I’ll be back soon,” Avalon said, disappearing into the growing shadows.
Found out what else happens to Avalon and Betsy on the mountain in The Firestorm Chronicle Anthology, available in ebook and print from DriveThruFiction.