We reached the young man’s home first. His family was drawing water from the well and trying to get everything wet enough so at least some of it might survive the fire. From here, we could see the flames as they sparkled at the bottom of the cloud of smoke drifting over our heads, dropping hot ash on everything and everyone.
“Help with the buckets,” I yelled as I strode closer to the flames.
“What are you going to do?” asked Haines as he snagged my elbow.
“You…” I turned to him and saw the bucket brigade of giants behind him. I was going to send him back to help the others, but there was no way he would be able to keep up with them. “You, watch and keep me out of trouble. I’m going to put this fire out.”
“You’re going to WHAT?”
I wasn’t listening any more. I closed my eyes and called on the magic. I had done something this big only once before and I had done it without much thought. Working a disabled space ship was not the same thing as this, but I knew that I could do it; I just didn’t know if I had recovered enough. I had my doubts.
I didn’t have time for doubts. The land was dry for miles around. If I drew on the water table below my feet, I could drain the well behind me. If I failed here, the people behind me would have nothing to fight with. They would lose everything and very likely even their lives.
I reached far away and pulled the water from a mountain lake. I brought it here in a long stream that I used like a fire hose with many heads. With my hydra of water, I began to attack the flames and the ground in front of it with giant waterspout fingers.
When the water from that source ran out, I found another and began anew. I let Haines guide my feet as he pulled me back from the approaching flames. Someone must have handed him a wet cloth because he tied it over my face to keep out at least most of the smoke.
The next thing I knew, large hands were resting on my shoulders and a serge of new power rushed through me. Without question, I made liberal use of the power to begin making a brake. Ground out in front of the fire and around its flank began to explode and I used the airborne dirt and mud to help smother the flames.
I began to advance along the fire line just to make sure none of the flames had managed to get past my barrage of water and dirt. Hours later, there was no more open flame. I used the last of my energy to feel through the burned out acreage and douse any hot spots I could find.
I remember turning to look for more embers, but hands restrained me. I turned to see that they belonged to Carm. He and the others around him were blackened with soot to the point of being unrecognizable, but his voice and his words told me who he was.
“No, Liam, we’ll take care of the rest. You let go and stay here. You’ve done enough.”
Let go? Enough? I turned to face the fire again and…I don’t remember what happened after that.
The odor of smoke woke me, but my befuddled brain couldn’t figure out why I would be smelling smoke and still be lying in bed. There was no commotion, no alarm around me, I was comfortable, and yet smoke seemed to be everywhere. I came to the conclusion that I ought to do something, so I shoved the blankets aside and rolled to sit up.
A woman came in with a large platter of meats and cheeses. She was smiling and saying something. I tried to tune into her words while concentrating on what was in her hands. I was so hungry.
It took me a moment (and several mouthfuls) before I noticed who was standing behind her. Tsan was standing in the doorway gnawing on a leg of thopper; it looked like a turkey leg in his massive hand.
“That was an awesome thing you did, kid, taking on a fire that size by yourself. I never felt such a rush as that. Well, I did once, but it was only a tickle compared to today. Are you doing all right?”
“That was you?” I managed between mouthfuls of cold meat.
“Yeah, me and Larak. You pulled him right down to the ground. He’s still sleeping in the other room.”
I was stunned and my mouth stopped working.
Tsan saw the expression on my face. “Don’t worry kid. He’s just sleeping. You’re the only one that fainted.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “When do I get as strong as you?” I asked.
He just laughed. “You’re already stronger than any of us. You just need to learn a few more things. You’ll probably have everything we can teach you safely tucked under your belt by the time the spring thaws come around again.”
I finished my plate and started to get up.
“Nah, go back to sleep. Carm and Steven are still out looking for embers. Take the time to rest.”
“I could help…”
“You’ve done enough, now rest.”
I did. I felt better, but I definitely had no problem going back to sleep. A full belly helped – a lot.