Two women, a fire god named Volen, and a volcano come together under mysterious circumstances. How are they connected? What lengths will Volen go to in order to secure a companion for a short time? Does anyone want to test the wrath of a fire god, when he is sitting on an active volcano?
NOTE: This story was originally released in Coming Together: Under Fire (ed Alessia Brio) and is available in print and ebook from Coming Together.
"It's coming, Ellie. I can taste it."
She nodded, yawning and stretching her back. "Yeah, Roger. I know it. You know it. Every dog, cat and bird between here and Portland knows it, but until we have the numbers to back it, Edwards isn't going to budge, and those people are going to stay in their homes and in danger."
"You know what that means."
Ellie scowled at him. "And you on crutches," she drawled. "How convenient."
"What happened to 'I live for danger'?"
"That was climbing down a lava tube that had been dormant and cold for five centuries. The worst I'd get there would be scratches and bruises."
"If you don't--"
"Oh, can it. I know what the alternative is. I just don't want to end up like David Johnston did. I'd prefer to enjoy my notoriety, not end up a name on a plaque somewhere on a pile of rocks."
His hand settled on her shoulder. "I know it."
* * * *
Alia startled, looking back at her older sister in surprise. For a moment, she couldn't seem to recognize her location.
"You were dreaming again?" Chessa whispered, her hand dropping away from Alia's shoulder.
She nodded miserably.
"What is it? The fietro wants to know it. There are rumors that you are a seer, you realize."
"I...do not know. Oh, please, Chessa. I really do not know. When I come back to myself, I have no memory of the dreams."
"Nothing? Nothing at all?" she demanded.
Alia looked to the jagged mountain. When she woke, she was always facing that mountain. "Only that something has changed. Something is different."
"What? What is different?"
"I do not know," she admitted.
"Well, we had best get to our work. Mother will be angry, if midday must be put back for us again."
She nodded, sighing, turning the winch that drew up the collection pot.
"Look. Skybear is home," Chessa called out, pleased that her favorite dog had returned from his hunting.
Alia looked up, noting that Chessa's bowl of fruit was nearly full while she herself hadn't gathered half a carry-pot of water. Her sister had time to set her bowl aside and greet the animal. Alia did not.
Chessa did so, but Skybear growled, baring his teeth, flattening his ears back against his head as if Chessa meant him harm.
"What is it, Skybear?" her sister asked.
He snapped at her, running for the far side of the village as she squealed and backed to Alia's side. Alia released the handle, grimacing at the plop of the collection pot hopping off the hook and landing in the water below. For a moment, they stood with their arms around each other, breathing hard.
Chessa looked at the mountain Skybear had come from, the same mountain Alia stared at while she dreamed.
"You are right. Something is wrong."
"Not wrong," Alia breathed. "Different."
"Chessa!" their mother shouted. "Alia! What is keeping you?"
Chessa ran to her, tripping over her words in an effort to explain how Skybear's attack had put them behind. Alia barely heard them. She stared at the jagged peak, trying to decipher what was different about it.
"Alia! Where are you going?"
She looked around in a daze, locking on her mother's angry expression, furrowing her brow at the fact that she was a body-length closer to the mountain with no memory of traveling the distance.