The Pyre Master

I knew at once that I was outmatched. As per a usual Friday night, I had drunken myself into a stupor and picked a fight. But I had chosen the wrong person on this night. He had struck me with his open palm, lightly in my chest, and I had been sent sprawling backwards. I rose slowly, my eyes locked with his the whole time.

With one hand he grasped his shirt and pulled it from his body with no apparent effort. I felt a strange sense of awe when I saw the uniform lines scarred into his flesh; they followed the contours of his body and seemed to flow into one another with a whole sense of purpose and direction - from his head and neck to his hands.

"Silly boy, you've ended yourself tonight." His voice was soft, and strangely resonant, seeming to hang in the air before me. He drew his right foot back into a wide stance, and poised himself, with palms open and facing each other in front of his chest. I noticed a black line scorched into the varnished floorboards where he had dragged his foot back. Sorcery? Obviously, when I think back. But when I first saw it, I was simply drunk and angry. I picked up a beer stein in one hand; it felt solid and capable of damage.

With what I thought was a swift and careful movement, I cast the stein at the strange man's face. With a flash of light and nothing but a blink on his part, the mug, still spilling beer, changed direction and careened into my own visage. I felt teeth crack and crunch as I fell backwards, sprawled upon the floor once again.

"Wh..what are you?" I uttered messily through blood and broken teeth.

"," He seemed to have to force the words out, as if damming some great internal pressure..

"DOOM!!" This last word seemed an eternity, the bass was terrible and oppressive - the patrons watching the fight began to flee with their hands over their ears. The pressure within my head was intense, actual vibrations shook it from side to side and made it difficult for me to focus my eyes. He spread his arms and legs wide and screamed to the dusty wooden pillars above us. An unearthly glow burst from his eyes. His hair sizzled and crackled, suddenly erupting into flame as smoke furled from between his clenched teeth. The scars that marred his arms, chest and neck shone with the same baleful light as his eyes.

Fear. Very cold and sobering fear filtered through my drunken haze about now. I struggled to my feet before searing flame and heat seemed to crush me to the floor in some kind of mental energy blast. I lay writhing and whimpering, the smell of my own burning hair more evident to me than anything else. He stood over me, regarding my position with hell-fire in his eyes. With what seemed a last menacing smile, he raised one  hand. A single finger flick sent a flame to curl between his fingers, like a snake coolly slithering back and forth, back and forth, back and was hypnotising. With a snap he closed his fist. Fire clothed his hand and grew massive, racing outward into a circular wall of heat like a shield. I tried to turn away from the intensely hot wall of flames but pain wracked my body. I cursed my stupidity in what I thought were my final moments.

He faltered.

By all the Gods he faltered.

The firewall collapsed, just seeming to dissolve into nothing. And like the calm before and after the storm, he seemed to once again be nothing more than a poor sop I had thought to make sport of. No infernal light, no flaming hair. Calm seas once again. 

"You are lucky I am needed elsewhere, peasant." He positively spat this last word at me. Leaving his ripped shirt on the ground where he had thrown it, he strode across the room and out of what I could see in my current condition. As I heard the door creak open and bang closed again, it was all I could do to stem the tears.

The End

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