Flare stared out across the desert expanse that stretched out before him. There was no sign of vegetation, and no sign of water as endless sand dunes stretched like waves as far as the eye could see, masking any ‘islands' of relief beyond the horizon. Above him, the sun beat down on the realm, its heat and power intensified by the overflowing force of the fire element that hung in the air, drenched the land, and consumed the realm. Ever oppressive, even the shade of the watch tower's roof did little to temper its strength.
Despite the temperatures well above a hundred – even in the shade of the watchtower – not a single bead of sweat dotted Flare's brow. He leaned forward, resting his chin on his palm as he leaned on the railing that surrounded him. The boy's skin was a dark tan, having drunk in the sun rays for the entirety of his eighteen years of life. His vibrant red hair tossed in a gentle and painfully dry breeze, seeming to defy gravity as it stood straight up. Streaks of blonde were scattered about the red, and as the wind tussled the teenager's hair, it almost resembled a small fire perched atop his skull.
The teen reached up, rubbing his red eyes, the wind continuing to dry them out. He blinked a few times, clenching his eyes shut a moment so his eyelids could try and coat his pupils in their cooling restorative fluid. His face was clean shaven, or rather hair no longer grew there. Being a Flamian – a Human of the Fire Realm – his body had long since evolved past the need for body hair. The only remnant of a time when the thin fur that covered most human's bodies was the hair atop his head. The rest was gone – forsaken in order to survive the oppressive heat of their environment.
Flare lifted his head, turning to glance behind him, toward the opposite ledge of the watchtower's balcony.
"Flare! You up there!?"
The Flamian pushed off his rail, smiling at the familiar voice as he quickly crossed to the opposite side of the tower. The sight here was a stark contrast to the desolate dunes that he had moments ago been watching.
The small town of Char stretched for nearly a mile, packed tightly with homes. Around it was a tall, thick wall made from sandstone. While not incredibly durable, in protected the small hub from the dry winds of the desert, and provided a minimal amount of defense for the small human village. In the center of the town, a small fountain bubbled up water – a rare plume of liquid in the otherwise dry desert realm. While the world outside the village was tan and brown, green dotted the town. Trees poked their heads through the dirt – strange plants that had evolved to burrow their roots deep to hold themselves tight in the shifting sands. The trees provided little shade, and little substance, but they were about the only thing the Fire Realm had. A strange yellowish grass also speckled the village – this stuff was a bit more useful than the trees. During the night, the grass attracted water from the air like a magnet, helping the Flamian town survive the arid environment.
"I brought you lunch!"
Flare turned his eyes down to the base of his tower, smiling at the young girl that grinned back up at him. "Come on up, then."
Jenna nodded. The girl had been Flare's friend for as long as he could remember. She had the same tanned skin, also drenched in the sun's rays. She stood a little shorter than him – Flare was roughly six foot tall – but was still on the taller side when compared to the other woman of the village. Her hair was a darker, more subdued color of red, closer to a maroon, but with streaks of lighter and darker shades that gave it a somewhat shimmering appearance. But her eyes were her best feature: a bright blue color. It was rare that anyone of the Fire Realm was born with eyes like hers. Staring into them made you feel like you were staring into the oceans of legends – endless expanses of cool blue water.
The girl was roughly Flare's age, though Flare wasn't entirely sure whether she was younger or older. No one was really certain of that. Mostly because no one was really certain of how old Flare was. The first memory he or anyone else in Char could remember of him was from roughly ten years prior, during a raid from the Monsters. According to what people told him, Flare had emerged from an explosion set off by a Dragoling. He had appeared as the fire and smoke cleared, a young child, stark naked, and carrying nothing but a sword. It was not just any sword that he held that day, though. The sword he had appeared with – the sword he still to that day had strapped to his back – was The Mystic Blade of Fire, The Flame Sword. He didn't remember much of that first attack, but people claimed he single-handedly turned away all of beasts threatening their town, preventing any man, woman, or child from being taken. All he really remembered, though, was the thankful hug Jenna had given afterwards.
"I have a real treat for you today!" Flare turned as the small wooden hatch in the center of the tower balcony's floor pushed up, and the redheaded girl climbed through the revealed hole in the floor. "You heard about that wanderer that's in town, right!? Well he had fish!"
The girl sat on the edge of her hole, lifting her bag and opening the flap on the top to reveal two small fish on the inside. The guppies were barely bigger than the teenager's palm, but it was the first time in nearly five years that he had seen one.
"That's awesome!" Flare exclaimed, rushing forward to grab the tiny fish from her bag. "Oh man, my mouth is watering just looking at them!"
Jenna laughed, reaching up to brush a few stray strands of her hair from her face and behind her ear.
"Patience, Flare!" She stated as she snatched the small morsels back from her friend. "We still have to clean them and cook them!"
"Screw cleaning ‘em!" Flare shouted, reaching up to grab the hilt of the sword slung on his back. "We'll loose too much meat that way."
"But nothin'!" The eager teen yelled. Flare pulled on the hilt in his hand, unsheathing the Flame Sword from its scabbard. The Mystic Blade seemed to glow a moment as it was exposed, drawing Jenna's eyes as the teen held it in front of him. Its size resembled a broad sword, but the rest of the blade was unique. Despite its size, the sword was incredibly light, but still incredibly powerful. And the shape of its blade was strange, molded to look as if the sword was one fire – it even had red, orange, and yellow covering its surface to add to the illusion. One edge of the blade appeared wild, with numerous small tendrils of fire, while the opposite edge was more even and subdued, with a single large ‘flame' molded into it. The sword's edge looked oddly dull, but anyone in Char could have attested to its cutting ability.
"I'm not wasting this gift! Lay those suckers on the ground, and I'll fry ‘em up!"
Jenna sighed, shaking her head momentarily. She knew Flare well enough to realize there was no point in arguing with the brash teen – he had made up his mind. She kneeled down, placing the small fish gently on the tower's surface and stepped back.
"Be careful, though. You know I don't like them—"
The redheaded girl was forced to cut herself short as Flare thrust the tip of his blade toward the fish laid in front of him. From the apex of the sword, a stream of fire shot forth, expanding outward into a powerful geyser of flames that quickly engulfed the small guppies. While the blast only continued for a short moment, when it cleared, the ground was burned, and the fish were smoking and black.
"… charred." Jenna finished with a sigh.
Flare grinned hungrily as he slid his sword back into it's sheathe and collapsed in front of the overly-cooked food. He lifted one of the small fish and lowered it into his mouth, chomping down, a shiver of deliciousness washing over him as the taste met his tongue. Jenna kneeled down across from him, staring at the charred black blob that had once been a rare and savory delicacy. She reached a finger out, poking at its tough and dry surface, grimacing at just the feel of it.
"You gonna eat that?" Flare questioned, mouth still half-full as he stared at Jenna's fish.
Flare reached out, grabbing the fish from the ground and shoving it into his mouth as another wave of delight passed through him.
"…yours." Jenna finished with another sigh. "You could at least wait for me to finish."
"Sorry." Flare replied. He might have sounded more apologetic if his mouth hadn't been stuffed full at the time, though.
Jenna replied with a grin, resting her chin in her palms as she stared at her friend. Flare continued to chew as he stared back at the teenage girl, growing increasingly uncomfortable the longer she did.
"What?" the fiery-headed teen questioned after swallowing the mass of charred fish in one gulp. "Stop starring at me."
"Mmm… Nope." Jenna replied, grinning as she focused her piercing stare further.
"Stop being weird." Flare stood, moving back to his position against the outer rail of the watchtower's nest, staring back out amongst the dunes.
"Anything?" Jenna asked, coming up beside him. She raised a hand, shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun as she surveyed the arid expanse.
"Nope." Flare frowned, shaking his head. "Been three weeks now. I'm starting to get worried."
"Maybe they just finally realized they didn't stand a chance against us anymore." Jenna suggested cheerfully, turning to face the worried look of the swordsman beside her.
"Maybe…" Flare responded, eyes still scanning the dunes.
Or maybe they just realized they needed more creatures…