Adelynn Wardrop had killed a Firewalker.
That was the rumor that had been weaving through the dusty town of Mirham for the past five years. It had traveled down every street and been told at least once in each of the town’s stone buildings. Aside from the latest brothel scandals, it was the favorite story of nearly all the locals. They discussed it over tankards of ale as the angry sun set and again on the docks at dawn while the star made its slow crawl into day.
It was a story that had a good beginning and an impossible end - though the middle parts were a bit fuzzy and the details changed with each re-telling. More than anything, it was a good story because no one truly believed it…though they wanted to.
They wanted to believe it so badly, that all the women stopped their talk when they’d see the small frame of the Wardrop girl making her way up the road in the middle of the day. They lowered their gossip to a reverent, fearful whisper until she’d passed. Their hearts beating just a bit faster with a half-fear as they thought about what she was said to be capable of. And none of the men objected when she sat down at the pub, scattered a few gold pieces on the counter top, and ordered a pint.
“She sleeps half the day away, then goes to Scully’s Ale House until it gets dark,” they said.
“She leaves at night to go hunt Firewalkers in the forest.”
“And she takes that bag with her.”
“I hear it’s filled with a special ice that never melts. That’s how she kills them.”
“That’s not how you kill a Firewalker.”
“Well then how did she do it?”
“I don’t know. But if it were ice, someone would have tried that centuries ago, wouldn’t they have?”
“Well, she sure didn’t just talk the thing to death.”
And they’d all laugh at this last remark, because Adelynn Wardrop had spoken less than a hundred words since she arrived in Mirham.
“It’s because that thing burned her tongue before she destroyed it. She can’t hardly say anything anymore, now can she?” And then the debates broke out about how she killed something that could never die. About how a child had bested the most fearsome creature that had ever existed.
On the days that the failing sun wasn’t scorching the soil with spasming flares of light, children stayed out later than their mothers liked, hiding in the ruined stable on the outskirts of Mirham. There they told well-known stories of the ancient Firewalkers and made up some of their own, all the while waiting to catch a glimpse of Adelynn Wardrop as she took the one road out of town and into the woods.
The especially curious children stayed there all night, staving off sleep with one another’s company, until the first sickly light of the sun flashed over the horizon. They would strain their sleep-deprived eyes to watch for her silhouette as she emerged from the forest and moved with quiet steps down the road. Some even followed behind her, darting around houses and alongside fences, thinking they were moving unnoticed. Each morning, they followed her to her little home at the far end of town. She never detoured and never took an alternate route. And she never looked back at the children.
They only ever saw her cary her rucksack and they didn’t dare speak to her. But they waited for nights on end, hoping for the morning when she would bring back a Firewalker. Or, better yet, a dead one.
“There’s no way she killed one,” some of the people would say as they hunkered down in their fortified homes during the too-common solar flares.
“It’s never been done.”
“At least not for hundreds of years.”
“Probably not ever.”
“And, supposedly, she was a child when she did it!”
They’d all take long moment to think about it.
“But you know, I went over to Felst a couple months back - that town just before the Kelling Mountains and they’ve even heard of her. They were talking about her just like we do. Said some woman had come around looking for her a couple years ago - had said she’d met her once. Said she’d seen her kill a Firewalker.”
“I heard it was Melnor the Molten that she killed.”
“No, it was Cinder.”
“She didn’t kill any of those powerful ones. It was just a weakling.”
And their arguments ignited once more.
For all their talk, none of them had ever asked Adelynn Wardrop if she’d actually killed a Firewalker. Not because they were scared of her. No. It was because they wanted to hold tight to the possibility that the only person ever rumored to kill a Firewalker lived in their town. For the first time in a millennium, the town felt safe - something that was as unusual and temporary as Adelynn Wardrop’s stay there.
SaraColey      10/26/17 10:25 PMJust started this cool series. Can’t wait to read more!