Fire Stones - By Kailin Gow


I had a dream – that was not at all a dream. I had read those words before. The poetry of Lord Byron – some English class – the ninth grade. He was one of the few writers we read who wrote before the Erosion – so often, for us, it seemed that nothing pre-Erosion mattered. The seas were rising; the lands were vanishing into the waves. Sand grew wet and scattered; the earth succumbed to the swamp and the darkness. How were we supposed to care about the lives of those who had lived back when the world was a mass of great continents, when we did not have to worry about the ever-shrinking ground beneath our feet.

But the lines of that poem stayed with me for a long time after I learned them. I had a dream, that was not all a dream. For last night I too had a dream, and although the splendid phantasmagoria, the surreal sense of flying, the echoes in my ears all told me that I was dreaming, there was something within my dream so strong, so clear, that it was more real still than my waking days. My dream was strong enough to eradicate anything that was not my dream at all. The world didn't exist. My waking life didn't exist. High school, Aeros Academy, the popular girls, test grades – how petty they all seemed, how vague! As if it were of those things I had dreamed – and now, now at last, I was awake.

Where were we? I looked around and my eyes were shining. This place, so glorious in its splendor, alive with the shine of pure white fire – it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Even the most beautiful vistas of Aeros – its high mountains, its dark seas – could not compare to this splendor. Yet it did not frighten me. I was not afraid, nor intimidated, by the awe-inspiring grandeur of this place. It was my home. I belonged here. Of this I was sure. I commanded these golden flames; they lapped and licked at my command. I owned them. I looked around – the clouds were mine, the earth beneath my feet was mine, the flames were mine: and I knew in my heart the truth of the matter. I was Queen of this realm. It belonged to me.

But I was not alone. A man was at my side, his flesh sweet-smelling with fire and a hint of sweat, the warm smell of action and vigor. His skin glistened in the firelight; he wore no shirt, and his olive-dark stomach rippled with tense muscles – like the tensing of a lion's body before the kill. His hair was long and dark; his blue eyes were penetrating. I could feel his skin against mine, the warmth and the smell of his skin against mine, and in ecstasy I knew he was with me – in a sense deeper than the greatest depth of magic. He and I were one, fused together the way the flames of the firelight fused together – two tongues of the same eternal fire. We were dressed in fine rainment – in the clothing of great kings and queens. Our bodies were weighed down with glimmering gemstones – red, orange, yellow, green – and fine golden silk caressed our skin. Where is this place? The part of me that remained Mac, that remained myself, was confused.

But a still-greater part of me knew exactly where I was. I was home – sitting upon my throne, with my love at my side. Vesta's throne. I could feel a shiver run through my body. This was where I belonged. This is where I had always belonged. All my life up to this point had been a vague and frenzied search for this moment of eternal, perfect bliss. I could feel my love's lips against my shoulder, nuzzling my neck.

“The Great Goddess Vesta,” a servant was bowing at my feet, so low that I could not make out his face. He touched the earth with his forehead. “I have come to do the Ritual Honors. I have come to bathe and prepare you for the ritual.”

“What sort of preparation?” My love smiled – a cocky, familiar smile that spread slowly and rapturously across his face. Chance?

“Fine scented oils,” the servant said, bowing low once again. “A massage.”

“A massage?” There was a twinkle in my love's eye. “Why, do you think to deprive me of